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EBR School Board considers 'universal pre-k'

EBR School Board considers 'universal pre-k'

BATON ROUGE - The East Baton Rouge School Board met Monday night to talk about a nearly $30 million plan to get every kid in preschool in Baton Rouge.

Educators say it will cost them, but early childhood education is priceless and needed.

East Baton Rouge Pre-School Director Bobbie Robertson says the system in place now discourages parents.

"They feel like, well, 'I'll just keep my child at home,'" said Robertson. "'I don't really need for them to go to pre-K,'" she said of the process that is difficult for some parents.

The Universal pre-K plan is estimated to cost the public school system $30 million, if implemented. Superintendent Bernard Taylor says EBR currently bears a significant amount of the cost of 2,400 spots but still would like to expand to about 3,400 spots.

Robertson says students enrolled in pre-K are more likely to graduate and stay out of trouble later in life. Yet, in 2013, 33 percent of EBR kindergartners, had no prior education.

"Some families chose not to go, others wanted to go, but could not get in," said Robertson.

Pre-K is not mandatory in EBR, parents have the option and are encouraged to enroll their kids. Each student is screened to determine where they need to be placed. Students who test high might not get their first school choice and often have to travel further for education.

Parent Khadijah Thompson says her daughter has been screened and scored high.

"I was told she had done very well," said Thompson. "It's quite possible she won't get in, because of her scores being higher."

The board did not say where the money would come from.

"I don't know how we can come up with $29 million, but we have got to do something," said School Board member Barbara Freiberg. "But we have got to do something to do a better job with early childhood."

Image: WBRZ

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