Governor's Early Kindergarten Idea Gets Lukewarm Reception

Caroline Knight stood over her kindergarten students. She handed them three coffee cans. "We're going to have to work really hard and roll these cans back and forth and back and forth and back and forth," she told the children.

The cans contained ice, salt, and half and half cream. When the kindergartners mixed up that combination they created snow.

Their kindergarten teacher felt Governor Musgrove's new Summer Start program had a snowball's chance of working. "Extending the school year is like a silver bullet solution to something," Knight said. "It's so much bigger than that. It really does have to start from when they're young."

The governor's new proposal brings kindergarten children to school two months early. He believes that would give the children a running start to the schoolhouse door.

Mrs. Knight didn't think extra time in kindergarten would improve a five year old's chances later in life. She said that lesson should be taught at home, before the kids come to school. "Anything that young children do, that helps them to become literate," said Knight. "You don't just walk into a classroom and bam, it's there. It's from all the experiences that they've had."

Two parents who volunteered for the winter wonderland unit had differing views about whether an earlier start would have helped their kindergartners. At first Tiffany Burnette liked the idea. "I think it wouldn't hurt," she said. "Why not." Later, she changed her mind. Lisa Stiles' mind was made up from the start. "I'm not sure I agree with the summer kindergarten," she said. "I think they're only babies once, and summers off are kind of nice."

The legislature will consider the governor's Summer Start proposal later this winter, after the snowflakes made by the kindergarten class melt away.

Governor Musgrove said in his state of the state address that in the long run, the early kindergarten program would save the state millions of dollars. Mississippi children are not required to attend kindergarten.