SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Parents of Oregon preschoolers are likely to face thousands of dollars in tuition charges in the next few years if they want their children to be in full-day kindergarten.
In 2007, the Legislature legalized charging families for children to attend full-day kindergarten, rather than the free half-day program.
The idea was to give legislators a few years to come up with money to pay for full-day kindergarten, which gives children an academic boost. Most 5-year-olds in the United States attend classes for free.
But the recession and a resulting shortfall in revenue will make it hard to find new money, Oregon legislators say.
"In this budget environment, maintaining what we currently have is going to be difficult enough," said Republican state Sen. Jeff Kruse of Roseburg. "To add is going to be problematic in my perspective."
The Senate Education Committee heard hours of testimony Monday about the value of full-day kindergarten, but still plans to approve a bill to extend permission for school districts to charge for full-day kindergarten for two more years, through 2012.
Democratic state Sen. Mark Hass of Beaverton, chairman of the committee, said he is optimistic that lawmakers will nevertheless find some way to take steps toward the state paying at least part of the cost of full-day kindergarten.
"This committee will do more than just pass out the technical fix" to extend the legality of tuition for two more years, he said. "I know there is some compromise that exists."
About half of Oregon school districts choose to offer full-day programs, either by shifting funds from other programs or by charging tuition.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)