St. Charles School Board members continue discussion on sliding scale proposal for all-day kindergarten

The St. Charles School Board continues to discuss whether to offer all-day kindergarten on a sliding scale to help ensure that all families that want to can participate in the program.

All-day kindergarten currently has a program fee of $2,025 to offset the cost for the additional half-day of instruction, including personnel costs. The fee is reduced to $90 for families that qualify for a fee waiver.

Board members continued discussion on the topic at their Business Services Committee meeting on Monday. They plan to vote on the proposal in May.

As proposed, household incomes that are more than 300% of federal poverty guidelines would pay an $1,800 annual fee for all-day kindergarten.

The district has estimated that 367 students that would fall in that category. Household incomes between 251% and 300% of federal poverty guidelines would pay an $1,350 annual fee and household Incomes between 186% to 250% of federal poverty guidelines would pay a $675 annual fee. An estimated 100 students would fall into each of those categories.

And those household incomes from 0% to 185% of federal poverty guidelines would not pay a fee. The district is estimating 83 students would fall into that category.

Seth Chapman, the district’s assistant superintendent of business services and chief financial officer, told board members that those numbers are strictly estimates.

”There are families that could qualify that won’t apply,” he said.

The school district would lose about $350,000 in revenue from the sliding scale proposal, “which is something that we feel we could absorb into the budget process,” Chapman said. “To run the program is around $1.2 million.”

Board member Joseph Lackner asked Chapman if the district had high enrollment in fee reduction programs.

“It’s hard to assess because we changed our process coming into the pandemic,” Chapman said. “We don’t have very good data on this.”

Board member Becky McCabe said she would like the district to offer all-day kindergarten for free. But she realizes that cannot be achieved in one year’s time.

“I just wish we could get to zero as soon as possible or as soon as it is fiscally sound to do it,” McCabe said.

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf covers St. Charles and writes entertainment stories for the Kane County Chronicle.