St. Charles School Board approves sliding scale for all-day kindergarten

Starting in the fall, St. Charles School District 303 will offer all-day kindergarten on a sliding scale to help ensure that all families that want to can participate in the program.

At their meeting Monday, St. Charles School Board members unanimously voted to adopt a sliding scale for 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.

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.

Board member Becky McCabe has voiced her desire to see the district drop the fee for all day kindergarten.

“I would like to make a motion that if we are going to do the sliding scale, then I would like for us to make every attempt to reach the goal of having no fees in the following year, 2022-23,” McCabe said, in making the motion. “The reason for that is to hold our feet to the fire, that we will try to make every effort to make this something that the district can afford and is feasible for our community.”

Other board members objected to her proposal.

“I appreciate the sentiment and the goal,” board member Joseph Lackner said. “I object to the open-ended financial commitment without any consideration of which elements of the budget we would take money from. And until the analysis is done by the administration that says where we’re going to take that money from in order to provide this benefit, I would reject an open-ended financial commitment.”

Board member Edward McNally agreed.

“I don’t want to do things until I know where the money is coming from,” he said.

McCabe then dropped her motion.

Seth Chapman, the district’s assistant superintendent of business services and chief financial officer, had previously told board members 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,” he said.

Eric Schelkopf

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