March 3-- Working parents and educators are concerned about proposed cuts in state lottery funds which would reduce the length of the school day for pre-kindergarten children in Georgia.
State Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons says leaders at the capitol have heard the concerns and are giving local school systems flexibiity if they want to keep the Pre-K school day six-and-a-half hours vice cutting it to four hours.
"It's really up to the local systems. We're not dictating you can only do a half-day. You can continue with your six-and-a-half hours, but you'll have to make some programatic cuts. We're going to put more money in after-school care which could cover part of those costs. We'll put more money in transportation if you decide to transport the kids earlier. The local systems will make the decision on how they run the program. They came to us after we talked about a shorter day and said make the cuts in the money, but give us the flexibility in how long we keep our day," the Senator said.
In Vidalia, School Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith said they've yet to get any details from the Department of Education on what "flexible" means in real world terms.
"Senator Williams and a lot of other people use the word flexibility very loosely. We need flexibility and that's a wonderful thing, but the devil is in the details of where that flexibility comes. If the flexibility we get is that we can continue the program as is if we're willing to pay for it, then that's no flexibility at all," Smith notes.
"If we shorten the program, what about the parents who are working? They depend on us to have those kids under regular supervision from one hour to another. It's going to create a lot of problems for a lot of people in this state," the superintendent believes.
Dr. Smith says a reduction in the number of lottery-funded HOPE scholarships is a better alternative that reducing the effectiveness of the Pre-K program.
"You've got to start 'em young. If we don't do that right, we'll pay a price ten or 12 years down the road when they won't be able to pass state-mandated high school graduation tests," Dr. Smith said.
Senator Williams says he expects some final decisions will be made on Governor Deal's proposed changes to lottery funding of education next week.