Wicomico Co. Hopeful For Pre-K Budget Proposal - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Wicomico Co. Hopeful For Pre-K Budget Proposal

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MARYLAND - It was something many leaders with the Wicomico County School District have been waiting a long time to hear – a chance of universal pre-kindergarten.

"I just am so excited about the proposed funding," says Dr. Margo Handy, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction for the Wicomico County Public Schools.

Governor O'Malley's 39 billion dollar budget proposal includes $4.3 million in funding to phase in universal pre-kindergarten by 2018. Under the current state law, all economically disadvantaged students must be enrolled first, followed by children who show they are behind in developing.

"It has been extremely difficult to have to share with a parent who is excited about having their four-year-old going to school, that unfortunately you do not qualify," says Dr. Handy. "That is a tough argument."

"They are tax payers too and we certainly cannot argue with that, but we have to go by what he law says," says Sandra Drumman, Supervisor for Early Childhood and Title 1 Programs for the Wicomico County Public Schools.

Due to current funding, Drumman says only about 50 percent of eligible kids in Wicomico county actually get into the pre-kindergarten program, leaving 600 children to use other facilities or just stay home.

The school leaders say it is a state-wide battle that leaves many kids without a crucial first step.

"There are a multitude of requirements and learning opportunities that are vastly different from years ago," says Dr. Handy.

"Kindergarten is really what first or maybe even second grade was only a few years back," says Dr. John Fredrickson, Superintendent of the Wicomico County Public Schools.

Even if the budget is passed, the money will not be available for four years. However, school leaders are still hopeful.

"Hopefully this will eliminate us having that constant battle with parents and having to explain why some can go and others cannot," says Dr. Handy. "Universal pre-kindergarten will allow a level playing field for every child."

In the meantime, Drumman recommends childcare providers in the community that are not affiliated with any of the schools to get accredited and licensed.

"They might want to pursue that so that they'll have the opportunity to take advantage of the funding."

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