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Huntsville City Schools considering Pre-K tuition charge for some students

The district says recent budget constraints mean they would have to make significant cuts to Pre-K programs if they don't make some changes.

Posted: Mar 27, 2019 10:18 PM
Updated: Mar 27, 2019 10:47 PM

Huntsville City Schools has had free Pre-K for the last seven years, but that may be changing.

WAAY 31 talked to one family who's feeling anxious and unsure they'll be able to cover any possible Pre-K costs.

"I'm blessed to have the job that I have, but it would be a struggle," Robert Melton, a father of five, said.

Melton and his wife are the parents of five foster kids, and three of them are pre-school age. The Melton's are in the adoption process and want to enroll the kids in Huntsville City Schools' Pre-K program, but if they're forced to pay tuition fees, Melton isn't sure they can afford it.

"I wouldn't even want to think about paying for a child to go to Pre-K and get charged for it, when they're there to get an education," Melton said.

School leaders say the added cost is meant to make sure the Pre-K program continues. The district says recent budget constraints mean they would have to make significant cuts to Pre-K programs if they don't make some changes.

"We're not just going to have one. I mean, we're thinking about adopting more younger ones, so that number could jump straight up," Melton said.

A spokesperson confirmed the district is spending $3.3 million a year on its 40 Pre-K classrooms, and that's in addition to money from the state. In a time when money's tight, leaders say this proposal could save the district nearly $1 million.

"This is not college. This is not high school. This is Pre-K. I mean, a small child is trying to get an education," Melton said.

According to the proposal, students at Title One schools will keep getting to go to Pre-K for free, using mostly Title One funding. For non-Title One schools with Pre-K programs, the district would introduce a sliding scale to determine how much parents pay. Based on income and family size, that could be anywhere from $0 to $300 per month.

"It shouldn't be based on income. They should just keep it free," Melton said.

The are two Pre-K informational meetings Thursday at 5:30 p.m. One is at Rolling Hills Elementary and the other at Providence Elementary. The application for the next school year's Pre-K program opens April 1st, but keep in mind that if you apply when the application opens, you won't know whether you'll have to pay tuition next year.

The board of education is expected to vote on the tuition proposal sometime in April.

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