Full Day Kindergarten Falls Short


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Verona voters narrowly rejected a ballot initiative  to switch Verona’s kindergarten from half day to full day beginning in January.

According to the unofficial tally compiled in Town Hall on Tuesday evening, there were 2,768 votes against the full-day kindergarten, and 2,599 votes for it, a difference of 169 votes. The full-day proponents won only four of Verona’s 11 districts, but lost in district 3 by just one vote.

Turnout was 65.7% in Verona, below the turnout for the 2008 general election.

Unofficial Vote On Full Day Kindergarten
Voting District Yes No
District 1 219 189
District 2 200 251
District 3 206 207
District 4 306 281
District 5 289 345
District 6 225 296
District 7 206 231
District 8 219 263
District 9 200 197
District 10 292 322
District 11 237 186
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Verona voters had taken up the issue of full-day kindergarten many times in the past. In February, a grassroots group, Full-Day-K-For-Verona-NJ, won a resolution from the Board of Education to put full day school on the November ballot after garnering 243 signatures in favor of a resolution. The group spent the ensuing months lobbying voters in person and through their Facebook page, and addressed a Board of Education meeting in October. Crystal Bichalski, one of the leaders of the Full Day group, declined to comment on the outcome pending the official tally.

UPDATE: Early Wednesday morning, Board of Education President John Quattrocchi sent this statement by e-mail:

FDK is a beneficial enhancement for our students. Like most of the things we can do to improve the quality of our schools, it must be balanced with the realities of cost.
Local government continues to be the most effective way to do that, as our community can collectively decide the path forward for ideas such as this.
I look forward to successfully navigating the challenges we have today and need to meet for our future.

The group tried to emphasize that adding a full-day program would cost each Verona household only  $25 annually. But voters appear to have been concerned that the program would become a permanent addition to the district’s tax levy, with additional expenditures down the road.

Verona’s full-day kindergarten program would have followed the so-called Roseland model: Kindergarten students would have had a half-day program for September  through December, and then a full-day for the rest of the school year. The plan would have gone into operation in January.

Voters also today returned John Quattrocchi and Joe Bellino to their seats on the Board of Education. Both men ran unopposed. The board election was shifted top November from May earlier this year after the Christie administration eliminated public votes on New Jersey school budgets.


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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]


  1. Very disappointed by the result. The benefits to our kids are obvious, but also a full time kindergarten improves a community’s standing and increases property values. Verona’s NJ Monthly ranking will continue to nosedive because of this. I’m more than willing to shell out the extra $25 to see my house value go up.

  2. Over the last 6 months we have talked in depth to many people about this issue, and we have respect for the parents with differing viewpoints that have also articulately justified their positions. Indisputably,  parents on both sides of this issue cherish their children and want only the best for them. We are disappointed by the results of this week’s vote because even though the research is overwhelmingly in favor of the benefits of the increased instructional time for kindergarteners,  we recognize we live in tough economic times. 

    Each day our teachers and leaders are faced with tough choices. We think people on both sides of this issue also agree that the work our educators engage in daily is the most important work for our society, our kids, and our future.  We believe our kindergarten teachers deserve that extra time with our children each day, as other districts surrounding us afford their teachers and students.  Every extra minutes counts. Just ask any of our Verona teachers who tirelessly carve out extra time on a regular basis to stay late to work individually or in small groups with students, update a class website, or email parents to ensure each of our children get the best they can offer. We have wonderful teachers and wonderful children. It is a shame Verona couldn’t make this happen after so many attempts over the years to move this issue forward.

    Sadly, we heard some women opposing this initiative say that this is motivated by working parents who just want free day care.  Interestingly, we have not heard any fathers express this view, just other women. While we do not know why this is the case, I applaud Crystal and other stay-at-home moms who began this endeavor united with working parents, who never stopped to dignify such comments, and simply stayed focused on trying to make things better for our children.    

    Another thing we heard many opponents say, “I had a half day of kindergarten and it was good enough for me. I turned out fine.”  What we have found missing with this line of thinking is the lack of acknowledgement that the world have evolved significantly in the last 20-40 years.  As tough as times are, we wish the majority of voters could have dug a little deeper to acknowledge that the world has changed a great deal since most voters went to kindergarten. Our children are much more advanced than we were at their age in many respects. Technology alone  has ushered in a generation of iPad users who already outpace adults. We are still confident that most Verona voters are fairly progressive and just like the last time this issue came up, in a few more years more parents will take up this cause again as we try to move Verona forward to help our children meet the demands of the future. Our children are our most valuable resource. They deserve the best chance of meeting the demands of the present as well as the future. This includes a chance to have a better model than we had a children. Isn’t that what all parents want for their children, to make better choices and do better for the next generation?  76% of New Jersey districts already implement a full -day kindergarten model.  I am still hopeful that Verona overall is open to growth and willing to embrace progress in education in any, and all, forms in the future. Each day Verona teachers constantly blow us away as they embody these ideals.  Hopefully as voters we can live up to this ideal moving forward.  As parents who came together, we are committed to making things better for our children, and we have just begun. We are in this together and we will continue to work on this issue and many other issues to come in Verona, whether our children are kindergarten age or not. It is our responsibility even when our children grow out of the school district to ensure all children have the opportunity to have the best education possible. It is one of the beliefs our country is built upon, education is our pathway to overcoming adversity and inequality, whether it be racial, economic, gender or sexual orientation.  So we will be here, we will be active, and we will stay positive despite those who are not, for years to come.

  3. I am pleased this proposition fell short and I will take the time to explain why.

    I am the father of 3. I work, my wife does not. My youngest will enter K in September and I am glad it will still be a half day.

    Economics. Residents remain irrate about the 5.9% tax increase 2 years back and the spending attitude by our council and town manager that came along with it. There was considerable frustration among residents why these funds (for FDK) could not come from cutting waste somewhere else. Further, there were no assurances or caps on the approved amount, it only stated what it would cost in the immediate year. Nothing was in the way of a new resolution later on to turn it into a full year FDK, or any future growing costs of the program. Proposed construction in the town is likely to increase student-age population and the number of kindergarten classes required to accommodate them. The vote had too much of an open end. Residents are determined to send a messsage to our council that spending must be reduced. In addition, there are towns with FDK that are considering turning back to half-day as a means to cut cost. I doubt it will happen, but it is discussed.

    Choice. I’m not getting into the speculations of why people wanted the FDK (as many as I spoke with, I never heard any good resident make the accusation that this was free day-care motivated), but what about the parents that want half-day, to spend more cherished time with their children before school takes over? Many believe a half-day is a perfect way to begin school. So if the FDK passes, those who would have prefered a half-day are forced into full day? I heard the argurment that a private school could be chosen by those with this half-day preference. I don’t think so! These same private programs are just as available to those that want a full-day. So why force your neighbor to pay for it?

    Benefits of FDK. Yes, there are studies on the benefits, and yes times have changed, but consider the following. As wonderful as the American school system is, it falls short in comparison to a growing number of other countries. Why is it then, over the course of time and time again, do the most innovative products and highly successful ideas continue to come out of America? (no our government did’t build that either). One country’s study concluded it was the free-time available to American children. The time American schools let out, the weekends, holidays and long summer breaks that allow the American child to cultivate their imagination with what they have learned in school. So, more is not necessarily better. Balance!

    If you want FDK to happen, I suggest the long route, where there is time enough for those who have affected children to become comfortable with the idea instead of it being forced upon them, and time for our town council to cut other spending waste to in order to pay for the program without an increase to our taxes. Springing another vote upon people is going to have the same result. Best to you all.

  4. Well said, John. Just because “everyone else is doing it” is not a good reason to do something~ including implementing FDK. While the Full Day Kindergarten campaign did an excellent job at bringing the issue to the forefront, they did not put forth solid evidence that the program would produce long term beneficial outcomes. The advocates’ reasoning was based on opinion and emotion. This sentiment can be seen in the reactions taken off the group’s Facebook Page (I’ve removed the names, but used direct quotes):

    “Thank you for all your hard work Its probably the closest the town ever got to approving it. It’s sad that people on this town can be so petty & selfish.”

    “Terrible news. It’s gonna be a joy paying for after care for 3 children.”

    “I am sorry, ____! ____ is always welcome for aftercare chez ____!”

    These sentiments confirm that it is the parents who want FDK. Within the limits of Verona Township, many full day options exist. The caveat seems to be that the advocates do not wish to pay for it. Parenting decisions and family budget decisions are very difficult to make. People need to examine personal resources closely and determine what “nice to haves” can be eliminated before asking the general public to fund a cause with limited merit.

    Our youngest learners deserve an environment that includes time to create, daydream, run around, and play freely. This generally does not happen within the walls of a classroom. During a walk to the park, children can practice Language Art skills by reading signs and “spying” letters; identifying shapes practices geometry; cutting a child’s sandwich into quarters is an opportunity to teach fractions; allowing a child to figure out how much change will be coming back while at the store reinforces money/counting skills; seeing parents/caregivers interact with community members while running ordinary errands provides examples of good manners. It is called experiential learning.

    Being outside of a classroom allows for a different kind of enhancement, equally important, but becoming obsolete in a society that values test scores above all else. I believe the voters evaluated cost/benefit and have made a sound decision. The FDK organizers should tweak their message and take it up with the state; if the NJ Department of Education made kindergarten mandatory, it would no longer be an issue.

  5. I don’t have children waiting to get into kindergarten but I know the importance of FDK. And just because there is something that has been in practice since the beginning of time in this town does not mean that it isn’t broken. We are supposed to evolve and change with the times, if you stay stagnant you are not moving forward. FDK would have been a benefit to the town and to our children. Sorry to see that there are so many people still stuck in the dark ages. I am confident that we are not too far away from FDK, little by little more and more people are taking their heads out of the sand and seeing the light. It was a very close call for you naysayers, it is only a matter of time.

  6. Lisa,
    When quoting our site, it would be great to play fair.

    1. Our group compiled a fact sheet showing 10 separate studies all indicating the benefits of full day Pre-K. You chose to ignore all the studies and quantitative data that was provided. Just curious, where are your studies about the damaging effects of more time in kindergarten?
    2. You speak about choice but think that only the hours between 12:30 and 2:30 are the right ones to spend with your children? Are you implying that those who cannot, or chose not to use this time with our children are not as good parents? Do you really believe that people who advocate full day pre-K do not spend time in parks with their kids, or read to them or teach them things as well? That is what you seem to imply.
    3. Thanks for defining experiential learning – I think we are all familiar with the concept, and by the way, experiential learning means connecting what you learn outside the classroom with what you learn in the classroom.
    4. Perhaps you should start your own site, rather than pilfering from ours to suit your purposes? We would also suggest being accurate and complete when representing those whom you have quoted. The father on our site you quoted regarding the costs of sending 3 children to after care was making the point that it is a shame that that such revenue continues to go outside of Verona per this vote. He’d prefer to invest his dollars in the town rather than outside.

    Finally, just a reminder, kindergarten is still voluntary in NJ, so for those vehemently opposed, opting out is possible. Live and let live.

  7. I am proud to have worked with a group of people who ran a fact-based and well researched attempt to bring Verona schools to the highest level and institute full-day pre-K. Acknowledging the validity of both sides of the argument, Charity wrote a gracious letter, noting: “Indisputably, parents on both sides of this issue cherish their children and want only the best for them.” I find it very sad that on the other side of the table people feel it is necessary to malign those of who worked for this by stating that the effort was “for the parents”, by implying, in an age where two working parents are the majority, that those of us who work are somehow depriving our children of quality time (which must OF COURSE be between 12:30 and 2:30 each week day), or to attack people who sincerely believe in the benefits of pre-K as opportunists looking to benefit from free day-care or babysitting. Such personal attacks not only diminish their arguments, but only further inspire us to continue to fight for full-day pre-K, even though many of our children will not be able to benefit from it personally, despite whatever foolishness has been said to the contrary.

  8. It’s me again, writing in because I do not want this issue to divide our town. I wrote my reasons above as an offer to express MY viewpoints. They are just mine, and in fact, without the summation of all of them, I just may well have voted FOR FDK instead of against it. My head is not in the sand, quite the contrary.

    If people on the losing side of this vote want to get angry, don’t get angry at the poeple who voted against it, get angry with our wasteful-spending town council. As many of you have stated, the FDK issue has been a long-standing one in Verona. So in other words, the town council has told you, over the years, that new fire trucks, new town vehicles, fat pay raises and all the benefits and pensions that go along with them that are entirely inconsistent with what the tax-paying public sector receives from their employer, is all more important than FDK. Take your energy and focus it upon our town council to make this initiative happen without a tax increase. This is the message the people of Verona have sent to you.

  9. One point on this debate: School spending is decided by the Board of Education, not the Town Council. Two separate budgets, although both come out of our pockets. The BOE meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month in the Verona High School library, 8 p.m. The Town Council meets on the first and third Mondays of the month in Town Hall at 7 p.m. All meetings of both bodies are open to the public.

  10. Virginia makes a good point, and how convenient of our BOE and town council to hide behind the thin veil that separates them. I find it hard to believe that these two bodies cannot and will not assist in a matter such as this. It is unacceptable. But if this is the course that must be played, I would push the town council for a tax reduction equal and sustainable to the cost of FDK. I would insist on line items that were cut to make this happen. The success of this endeavor would get more press than the FDK proponents could ever wish for. I would then turn to the BOE requesting once again the increase to fund FDK. At the next vote, I bet a fair sum that the initiative would pass. You would have my vote and advocacy. And if it doesn’t pass, then and only then, you can blame the voter.

  11. There are obviously pros and cons to each side of this, or any debate, for that matter. I am simply expressing my perspective. I do not feel that kindergarten is a bad thing or “damaging”, by any stretch of the imagination, but I strongly believe that the current four hour day is a happy medium between the half-day/full day options.

    I attend nearly every Board of Education meeting and have for many years. I served on the SCAs at every level and continue to do so. I am very cognizant of the challenges our district faces. If the budget was able to accommodate the FDK program they would have done so without putting it up to vote. This initiative was above and beyond the current school budget which already exceeded the 2% cap.

    Please do not distort what I said about spending time with children. I do not “think that only the hours between 12:30 and 2:30 are the right ones to spend with your children.” If something different was inferred by my comment, I offer my apologies. The current program provides an additional 10 hours per week to make ‘connections’, reinforcing the time outside the classroom for that experiential learning. I agree, live and let live! As you stated “kindergarten is still voluntary in NJ”, so for those who feel full day is the best choice; options are available within our town.

    The FDK group did an outstanding job of opening a dialogue about our youngest learners and I personally commended them at the Board meeting in which they presented their views. I am certain this topic will come around again, as it does every few years. Here are just a few of the studies that outline some of cons of FDK:

    An excerpt from the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development says the “Amount of time in care mattered to some degree. Children with higher quantity (total combined number of hours) of experience in child care showed somewhat more behavior problems while in child care and in kindergarten classrooms than those who had experienced fewer hours in care.”

  12. Lisa
    Thank you for offering your perspective on this issue. Everyone’s perspective is valued.
    The studies that you cite, with the exception of the Rand study, however do NOT outline the cons of FDK. The first study only discussed the benefits of play time (and argues that schools have had to GIVE UP a lot of this because of the focus on academic subjects– a good argument for why lengthening the kindergarten day would actually help alleviate this). The second article (not study) only advocates the benefit of play. The last article is not a study; it is a letter written by an 11 year old child. The Rand study mostly focused on whether full day K could level the playing field for children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
    While parents have an absolute right to argue why they personally don’t advocate full day K, the truth is that the research is OVERWHELMINGLY in favor of the benefits of full day K
    At the risk of clogging up this site (apologies!) here are 10 academic STUDIES that cite the benefit of full day K:
    Cryan, John R., Sheehan, R., Wiechel, J., and Bandy-Hedden, I. G.. “Success Outcomes of Full-Day Kindergarten: More Positive Behavior and Increased Achievement in the Years After. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 7, pp. 187-203, EJ 450 525. June 1992.

    Elicker, J. and Mathur, S. What do they do all day? Comprehensive evaluation of a full-day kindergarten. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 12(4), pp. 459-480. 1997

    Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation. A Longitudinal Study of the Consequences of Full-Day Kindergarten through Grade Eight. 1988

    Holmes, C. Thomas and McConnell, Barbara M. Full-Day Versus Half-Day Kindergarten: An Experimental Study. Unpublished paper. ED 369 540. 1990.

    Hough, D., & Bryde, S. Summative Evaluation of the Springfield K-12 Public Schools Full-Day Kindergarten
    Program. Unpublished evaluation from Springfield Public Schools, Springfield, MO. July 26, 1995.

    Housden, Theresa and Kam, Rose. Full-Day Kindergarten: A Summary of the Research. Carmichael, CA: San Juan Unified School District. ED 345 868. 1992.

    Karweit, Nancy. Effective elementary programs and practices for at-risk students. Baltimore, MD: Center for Research on Elementary and Middle Schools, John Hopkins University. 1988.

    Martinez, S., & Akey, T. Full-Day Kindergarten 1997-98 Evaluation Report. Unpublished evaluation from Park Hill Public Schools, Kansas City, MO: March 1998 (with follow-up study summary, May 1999).

    Plucker, J.A., Eaton, J.J. Rapp, K.E., Woong, L. Nowak, J., Hansen, J.A., Bartlesa, A. The Effects of Full-day Versus Half-day Kindergarten: Review and Analysis of National and Indiana Data. Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents. Indianapolis, IN. 2004

    Stipek, D., R. Feiler, D. Daniels, and S. Milburn. Effects of Different Instructional Approaches on Young Children?s Achievement and Motivation. Child Development, 66 (1, Feb): 209-223. EJ 501 879. 1995.

  13. At the end of the day, it was cost/benefit~ it was not Verona’s time for FDK. People were voting on a budget item and this would have over stretched an already stretched budget.


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