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Learning Curve

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No friend of early learning

Fort Wayne Community Schools is among the Indiana districts holding firm on its full-day kindergarten program, in spite of wrenching reductions in state support. The progress students are making is too much to ignore.

This story from the Times of Northwest Indiana details how the Hobart school district is preparing to open an early childhood education center. Consolidating all kindergarten classes in one building is part of its response to Gov. Mitch Daniels' budget cuts.

Merrillville Superintendent Tony Lux tells the Times he likes the concept of an early childhood education center, noting that half-day classes don't offer enough time to prepare students in literacy, math, general learning skills and social skills.

But another superintendent, Rod Gardin of East Porter County School Corp., sets the case for early learning back by decades with his noxious observation that the district's FDK classes, available to families for $2,000 a year, is a bargain.

"That amounts to about $11 per day, and that's a bargain when you consider the cost of child care," he said.

That's the backward approach that Indiana policymakers have been taking for years. Full-day kindergarten is not child care. The Porter County superintendent is doing his teachers a disservice to equate it to child care.

As long as officials continue to downplay the value of qualified teachers and early learning, Indiana will continue to be stuck in the education cellar.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at