Pre-K lottery today is canceled

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A drawing to determine winners of pre-kindergarten slots in Columbia County public schools, originally scheduled for today, has been postponed.

The school board announced the postponement Tuesday over concerns about the future of the Georgia Lottery-funded program because of state budget cuts. The drawing tentatively has been rescheduled for late April, according to school officials.

The Richmond County School System also delayed registration for its pre-K program, which was originally set for March 9. School spokesman Louis Svehla said Tuesday that the district still has not decided on a makeup date.

Columbia County's decision on conducting the drawing likely will depend on whether the school board decides to continue the pre-K classes.

Before postponing the drawing, school officials already had warned parents that winning a slot in one of the 20 pre-K classes offered by the system doesn't guarantee that slot will exist next school year.

In a statement released Tuesday, officials said survival of the program "will be dependent upon interpretation of the new proposal by Bright From the Start, the state agency that governs the program, and resulting decisions by the ... board of education."

The lottery brought in more than $880 million last year, but that is far short of the more than $1 billion spent on HOPE scholarships and the pre-K programs it funds, according to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

To save the program, Gov. Nathan Deal devised a plan to shorten the pre-K school year from 180 days to 160. Even with adding slots for two more children in each pre-K class, that plan might save the state up to $54 million each year.

Deal's plan, however, creates new challenges that threaten the continuation of pre-K in Columbia County, such as a 10 percent cut in teacher salaries and a 6 percent cut to operating funding, officials said.

Michele Sherman, the school system's director of elementary learning, worries that such a caveat might instigate an exodus of pre-K teachers transferring to higher grades to keep their higher pay.

Columbia County receives about $1.9 million in lottery funding, and local taxpayers chip in nearly $124,000 each year to conduct pre-K classes.

Superintendent Charles Nagle recently said the system can't afford to supplement the pre-K program any more than it already does to keep teachers from transferring.

What the district might do, Nagle said, is to hire preK teachers and paraprofessionals for a flat salary.

Though the school board has previously discussed issues about the pre-K program, it has made no decisions concerning its future.

Those with questions or comments concerning the postponement can call the central office at (706) 541-2723, ext. 5202.

Staff Writer Jason Wermers contributed to this article.

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Dixieman
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Dixieman 03/29/11 - 08:48 pm
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Quit daydreaming and send

Quit daydreaming and send your kids to Augusta Prep, Westminster, Augusta Christian, EDS, etc.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/30/11 - 04:08 am
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First off, realize school

First off, realize school administrators from the principals to Nagle don't want to do the work of the program even though the people of the county have clearly told them to do it. If you don't believe teachers will work in Columbia Cty for 10% less in this economy you have been stuck in the administrative building too long. Aspiring teachers (and principals) are lined up.

It's interesting that the rationalization is all the money saved by cutting work instead of salaries. If all this is such a good idea, let's cut the first grade, too, and keep working our way up. Afterall Georgia is going to offer free internet schooling for high schoolers who learn from home. If Nagle says he can't make it work, let's help him out even more.

justsoyaknow
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justsoyaknow 03/30/11 - 05:14 am
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Riverman, you're right on

Riverman, you're right on target -- it's more of a political choice than an economic rationalization. Local taxpayers paying "$124, 000"? Not even close! The buses will be running the same routes and the buildings will be open and staffed, with or without the Pre-K students. Even if the numbers were somewhat accurate, do we really want to eliminate such a program if we are bound to only 6% of the costs?

Dixieman
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Dixieman 03/30/11 - 05:25 am
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Government schools = child

Government schools = child abuse, even with this program. Get a second job or do whatever it takes to get your kids into a good private school!

AugGal03
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AugGal03 03/30/11 - 07:49 am
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@Dixieman - I disagree with

@Dixieman - I disagree with you. I went to Columbia County schools k-12 and never experienced "child abuse." We had to present senior projects to community judges and one of mine was from Augusta Christian and was very impressed and surprised. Maybe you should visit some local schools and students before jumping to such quick conclusions. Not everyone can afford private schools.

corgimom
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corgimom 03/30/11 - 06:58 pm
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" If you don't believe

" If you don't believe teachers will work in Columbia Cty for 10% less in this economy you have been stuck in the administrative building too long. Aspiring teachers (and principals) are lined up. "

It's very hard to staff Pre-K and K. A whole lot of teachers don't want to teach those grades. They are considered difficult classes to teach, and very labor-intensive.

bama-girl
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bama-girl 03/31/11 - 07:31 pm
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Y'all should check out the

Y'all should check out the new Bee Hive Preschool at the AJCC... an awesome alternative to expensive private school Pre-K (as Dixieman suggested) ... art based and learning through play ... a program with 'old-school' standards - rather than 'government imposed standards' ... such as letting kids learn at their own pace and in their own way ... yes, "labor intensive," Corgimom ... but should be a labor of love for anyone who teaches 4 to 5 year-olds.

Beatlesfantoo
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Beatlesfantoo 04/01/11 - 04:42 am
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What isn't being said here is

What isn't being said here is how many non public-school jobs are hanging for some decisions. All of the county's Mother''s Morning Out programs, daycare and the like depend on early registration for next year to see how many employees to retain, let go, or new hire. Parents are waiting now to see if they make the Pre-K cut. I would rather not lose my job in this economic environment if possible.
And bama-girl, I came to your Bee Hive open house. Your location at the AJCC is awesome. Love all the windows looking out on the small lake and nature trail.
Bottom line, we all need a decision now so we can deal with it and move on.

etholconhan
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etholconhan 04/01/11 - 09:01 am
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While I can sympathize with

While I can sympathize with parents who are enduring this difficult time of waiting, and the experience of trying to finding a place to put their children for PreK during the 2010-11 school year, I do want to comment that there are still alternatives to the public/daycare choices that parents can take advantage off. I also do not want to distract from the benefit to a parent of receiving "free" Preschool, agreeing that disbanding of the program would be a great difficulty for them financially. Although a private PreK may incurr costs, there are wonderful private programs that are cost effective. As for Dixieman, he is either living in financial bliss that few experience for the cost of Augusta Prep (as well as EDS, Augusta Christian and Westminister) PreK is difficult at best for the average family to afford, costing upwards of $5,000 for a part time program. Some parents are already working two jobs just to make ends meet, and I can assure him that they are not intent on placing their children in a "government" school where they feel their child may be abused! Many extremely affordable and equally qualified PreK programs are in place in the counties and your child can be insured of a place in those programs by paying a minimal registration fee. ($25-$35 for most, $600 for Prep)
In response to Beatlesfantoo and bama-girl, I also have visitied several Pre K programs in the area, finding the new Bee Hive Preschool at AJCC a refreshing and affordable alternative to the already established schools in the area. It is both child and parent friendly, well structured with a curriculum that focuses on the whole child, and yes Beatlesfantoo, the location and atmosphere is incredibily conducive to happiness!! Let us hope that the lottery funded program can continue for those who need it most..... and for those looking for a great and affordable alternative, they're out there for the taking!

prncess803
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prncess803 04/29/11 - 12:33 pm
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Wake up Georgia! Head Start

Wake up Georgia! Head Start for over 30 years ran a successful preK program with 3 1/2 hour school days over a 4 day week. Teachers worked a 40 hour week, kids went in the AM or in the PM and teachers had a one day for planning/record keeping. Sending 4 year olds to 'school' for 6 hours a day is just plain dumb ...... it is FREE DAY CARE.

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