A bill that would have local school districts partner with area providers held its first hearings this week as legislators work on addressing childcare concerns in the state. Under Senate Bill 973, school districts would be required to contract with eligible child care and Head Start programs to provide a public 4K option that is still tuition-free. Often called the "community approach," this would send at least 95 percent of the funding that goes to the school districts for enrolled students to the childcare centers they work with and the parents choose. Some school districts around the state already operate on a similar model voluntarily. Gibraltar Area Schools recently collaborated with Northern Door Children’s Center in Sister Bay and The Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor to bring 4K programming to those facilities. Howard-Suamico School District runs its 4K program almost entirely out of seven partner sites in those villages. Sturgeon Bay School District Superintendent Dan Tjernagel said last week that many districts that already partner with area daycare centers do it out of necessity because of space restrictions.
Tjernagel, similar to what Rep. Joel Kitchens said, would like to hear more information on the topic. On the heels of the bill’s announcement last month, United Way of Door County Child Care Coordinator Molly Gary said the plan would provide a guaranteed and much-needed revenue source for childcare facilities. Meanwhile, Sevastopol School District Superintendent Kyle Luedtke said it would take critical funding from schools when districts are cutting where they can to make ends meet.
The Wisconsin Association of School Boards, the Wisconsin Educational Association Council teachers union, and the Wisconsin State Reading Association have registered against the bill, while the Wisconsin Child Care Administrators Association and the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association support it.