April 11, 2007
COLUMBIA CTY, Ga.---The Columbia County school board is looking into a lottery for Pre-K positions that some say was done unfairly.
Academics these days are competitive, even at the pre-kindergarten level.
So just how tough is it for parents to get their children enrolled?
Small Wonders daycare, like River Ridge Elementary's Pre-K program, is funded by the Georgia Lottery of Education. For more than a decade, Small Wonders has enrolled four-year-olds on a first-come, first-serve basis, unlike the lottery method used by the state's public schools.
"They have waiting lists," said Small Wonders lead teacher Anne Iverson of public Pre-K. "I think we've had as many as 20 or 30 on a waiting list."
"We offer this so that something's offered to everybody," said Small Wonders lead teacher Katrina Turner.
Some parents stand accused of trying to increase their chances of being selected in River Ridge's lottery. Superintendent Tommy Price announced at last night's Columbia County BOE meeting that he's investigating the suspicious condition of registration cards.
Some of the cards were folded, some balled up. The accusation is that this was done intentionally so they'd stand out and be drawn first.
If this was indeed done intentionally, why would parents stoop to such levels? Cost is a likely factor. Privately-owned daycares can cost up to $100 a week, while public Pre-K is free.
Columbia County offers just over 300 slots for pre-schoolers.
But even daycares now have to turn students away. Take Small Wonders' current enrollment. For every ten students enrolled, there's one put on the wait list.
"There seems to be more of a demand now and less space," Iverson said.
Superintendent Price hopes to have his report finished tomorrow. He says he's going to wait until results come back from an investigation before deciding if another drawing is in order.
"My whole goal has been to try to make sure this was a fair process," he said.
In the meantime, you can call Georgia's Department of Early Care and Learning for more information. That number is 1-888-4-GA-PRE-K.
You can also visit their website at http://www.decal.state.ga.us/.