Bartholomew Consolidated schools’ plan to ask voters this fall to approve a 5-cent property tax increase to pay for early-childhood education programs was met with a few questions and comments of support at Monday’s school board meeting.
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. officials introduced to the board a referendum question that would raise the tax rate by 5 cents for seven years to help pay tuition for 4-year-olds eligible for free or reduced-price lunch assistance at Title 1 pre-kindergarten programs and Busy Bees Academy. The 5-cent increase would be on top of the district’s current tuition support rate of 89 cents on each $100 of assessed value.
Columbus resident Lisa Deaton said she was concerned about the longevity of the initiative — voters could pass the referendum in November, but after seven years, the state could decide not to pick up the funding.
John Quick, superintendent of BCSC, said the school corporation would move the program forward one step at a time, but he would hope that by then the state would see the benefits of pre-kindergarten education.
The referendum’s goal, Quick said, is to help remove financial barriers so that 4-year-olds have access to pre-kindergarten instruction. Currently 750 of the county’s 900 4-year-olds are being served by either BCSC or private pre-kindergarten programs, he said.
Tuition support for private pre-kindergarten programs also is in the works through scholarship funds at Heritage Fund: The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County and the Community Education Coalition.
Columbus resident Marc Rothbart also said he would support the tax hike to help all county 4-year-olds receive a quality education.
“I’m happy to pay the nickel,” Rothbart said.
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