Fully serve the Shenendehowa 568!


The Times attends kindergarten: Are we a literate people? Do we know how to read and write?

Increasingly, we’d have to say the answer is no. For our latest case in point, we present an article which appeared on the front page of today’s New York Times, “New York Edition” only.

The report concerns full-day kindergarten in the state of New York. From his study carrel on the front page, Al Baker describes the problem:
BAKER (3/7/14): A significant expansion of full-day preschool in the state is likely in the coming years, though a fight continues between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over the best way to pay for it. Left unsaid, however, is that 7,100 students, or 4 percent of New York’s kindergartners, are now in school for only about three hours a day, according to the State Education Department.

“I don’t want to sound disrespectful, but it’s comical to skip over a first step, which is solidifying kindergarten,” said Dr. L. Oliver Robinson, the superintendent of the Shenendehowa schools, outside Saratoga, where 568 children attend half-day kindergarten. Many students do not enter the public schools until first grade, their parents choosing to pay for private, full-day kindergarten or to simply keep them home.
Fully serve the Shenendehowa 568!

It’s surprising to learn that the state of New York doesn’t require full-day kindergarten. The real chaos starts two paragraphs later, when our Times reporter tries to explain the nature of the problem:
BAKER: The issue is not easily resolved. The governor has offered to use state money to pay for full-day prekindergarten in any district that wants it. But outside New York City, which already has full-day kindergarten, most school funding comes from local property taxes. Districts without full-day kindergarten are typically not poor enough to qualify for enhanced federal funding, but also face resistance to raising property taxes substantially, especially now that state law limits how much they can increase those taxes in any year.
Say what? And not only that:

Are we a literate people? Do we really know how to read and write?

In the paragraph we have posted, Baker explains why this issue isn’t easily resolved. To judge from this paragraph, a larger problem prevails:

The issue can’t be explained!

In one imponderable paragraph, Baker discusses state funding, federal funding and several aspects of local property taxes. We don’t have the slightest idea what comes out of this goulash.

Baker starts by saying that Governor Cuomo “has offered to use state money to pay for full-day prekindergarten in any district that wants it.” It sounds like the problem is solved!

From there, we’re off on a cross country jaunt we simply don’t understand. Most of the districts in question “aren’t poor enough to qualify for enhanced federal funding,” Baker writes, failing to explain why they would need such funding if Cuomo will pick up the tab.

Thrown in are a couple of comments about local property taxes and resistance to, and limits on, the raising of same.

Do you understand that paragraph? We find no place in Baker’s report where this puzzle gets resolved.

Everything most of us need to know we learned in kindergarten. Did Baker’s editor learn how to fashion a paragraph which makes basic sense?


  1. This was really an awful article, no attempt to clarify by the writer and obviously no editing.

  2. Cuomo's funding claims are regarding pre-K. The districts in question need more funding to offer kindergarten on a full-day instead of half-day basis. Cuomo is not offering to send more funding to wealthy districts so that they can get full-day kindergarten on the cheap.

    The districts themselves will have trouble raising taxes enough to pay for full-day kindergarten because tax increases above a certain limit have to go to the public for an override vote--they're not popular.

    So, no, the article isn't confusing unless the reader confuses pre-K with regular K.

    1. Few things are confusing when you already understand them.

    2. Well, yeah, but most people understand that pre-K and kindergarten are different things. It looks like TDH just made a reading error.

    3. Exactly. "Pre" is, well, pre. As in before K. As in different. As in, the article makes perfect sense if you can read.

    4. Removing this sentence: "The governor has offered to use state money to pay for full-day prekindergarten in any district that wants it.'' would help clarify the issue. Prekindergarten isn't relevant here and many readers may miss the "pre" prefix.

  3. Article is very clear. The TDH post about it --- the usual muddle.

  4. HBrainteee here from a public computer.

    I have to agree with Anonymous at 8:14. The situation is this: Cuomo can give funding to a district for full-time kindergarten but there is means test. If the district is too rich funding cannot be provided and the district must raise its own funds. In these instances Cuomo is legally prohibited from sending money.

    In those districts rich enough to pay for full-time kindergarten on their own there remains the issue of getting voter approval, which is often difficult. Plus, even if you can get voter approval, there are laws which prohibit property taxes from being raised more than a certain amount. All of these problems get in the way of establishing full-time kindergarten.

    I honestly don't see what's so difficult to understand here. I usually agree with Bob and think he's doing a magnificent service but I'm seriously WFT on this one.

    1. There is a question of whether the school district that Bob uses as his example, Shenendehowa, could offer full-day kindergarten for 568 children without raising taxes.

      For example, according to their Web site, they offer both alpine and cross country skiing as an interscholastic sport at the high school level. That can't be cheap.

      This is not to question the value of skiiing -- or any sport -- as part of a high school curriculum. But it seems to me they sure found the money to offer it.

    2. HB also conflated kindergarten and pre-K. It is somewhat confusing why the article jumps from one topic - state funded pre-K to another - locally funded kindergarten.

      As for their ability to pay. Yes there probably are some other things they pay for, like skiiing. Just try to cut that, though, and watch thirty angry parents show up at the next school board meeting.

      But I doubt if it would pay for full day kindergarten anyway. 568 students at thirty per class would require 19 half-time teachers, or almost ten full time teachers. Skiing might pay for ONE of them, but I doubt if it would pay for ten.

      As my own tangent, I sorta laugh at the unstated, and unchallenged assumption of schooling.

      But I am just a moron who was raised on half-day kindergarten and no pre-K, so I cannot understand how our society is doomed without them. And year round school. Paul Goodman's "Compulsory miseducation" comes to mind.

    3. HB here.

      Sorry to say that, according to my reading comprehension, the issue under discussion in the supposedly offending passages is kindergarten and not pre-school. Pre-school is mentioned but then Baker goes into a discussion of kindergarten funding. My understanding is that kindergarten is not pre-school. Pre-school occurs before kindergarten.


      There seems to be some sloppy writing but, once into a discussion of funding for kindergarten the article seems pretty clear.


    4. 12:25, once again, the issue is not whether to cut any program in order to add another, or the reaction of angry parents. The issue is whether a school district wealthy enough to afford a ski program should be asking for state money to expand its kindergarten program to full day, because the state is offering to pay for full day pre-K.

      According to the article, which is quite clear, only 4 percent of New York kindergarteners attend a half-day program, and they tend to be in wealthy districts.

      The state is offering to pay for pre-K in ALL school districts, and Dr. Robinson is complaining that the state won't pay for all day kindergarten in his district.

      My response to him is that full-day kindergarten should have happened a long time ago.

      Yeah, I know, "Back in my day we didn't have full-day kindergarten or pre-K at all and we turned out just fine." Well many of our ancestors also went to one-room schoolhouses in the country, and they turned out just fine, too. So we should go back to that?

      Incidentally, both of my kids went to all day pre-K for two years, then all day kindergarten. They were reading by the time they reached kindergarten.