In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

All-day kindergarten makes sense;politics snarls financial aid

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Cheers: To a decision by Vancouver Public Schools and several other Washington school districts to offer all-day kindergarten to all eligible pupils. For years, educational research has pointed out the benefits of offering full-day kindergarten sessions. School is more demanding today and children need a quick start to build both their learning and socialization skills. Districts that have been able to offer all-day kindergarten, including Evergreen Public Schools, have seen the benefits as the children move through the primary grades.Vancouver already offered full-day kindergarten at some schools. Children who attended schools in impoverished neighborhoods could attend for free; at several wealthier schools parents could choose to enroll their child at a cost of $2,900. But some Vancouver schools didn't offer full-day kindergarten at all. The extension was made possible only after the Legislature made a last-minute decision to increase education funding. As Vancouver Superintendent Steve Webb explains, extra state funding will allow the district to free up $1.6 million in voter-approved levy funds to hire the teachers and acquire the equipment and space to offer the all-day classes.

Jeers: To late political moves that messed up financial aid for hundreds, if not thousands, of Clark College students. While state politicians were trumpeting that they didn't raise college tuition for the first time in years, financial aid officers were quietly wringing their hands on two counts. First, the 105-day regular legislative session, followed by two special sessions, left the cost of tuition and amount of state need grants unsettled until June 29.

The federal government made it even harder on college students. It took until June 27 for the feds to announce the new rate on student loan fees -- 1.051 percent, up from 1 percent last year. And, of course, Congress doubled the interest rate on Stafford student loans from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent beginning July 1. The result was a line that snaked out the door of the financial aid office and down the hall at Clark College this week.

Cheers: To the Fort Vancouver National Trust for making the 50th Independence Day at Fort Vancouver a success on all levels. Around here, Summer's Best Party refers to the Clark County Fair, but Summer's Best Picnic could describe the day-long entertainment at the Fort Vancouver National Site, capped by the area's best fireworks show. The trust has run the event for several years, taking over from a well-meaning local committee that sometimes had difficulty meeting all of its expenses.

Since then, the trust has placed the event on a firmer footing with sponsorships and admission fees, and this year's show was no exception, according to the trust's spokeswoman. An estimated 30,000 to 35,000 people attended the event. And the whole site was cleaned up the next day.

Jeers: To increased street gang activity. Like many other Northwest cities, Vancouver has its share of trouble from gangs, which trace their connections to Southern California's notorious Crips and Bloods. Summer seems to bring a rise in local gang crime, and this year is apparently no exception.

Vancouver police Cpl. Duane Boynton, whose beat includes some of most gang-affiliated neighborhoods, says he's noticed a rise in gang-sign graffiti, seen known gang members hanging out in Waterworks Park, and responded to more fights among young people.

Boynton and other police are trying to respond to the gang activity before it escalates; he even takes his paperwork out to the park and completes it in his patrol car. Their efforts are also aided by the Neighbors on Watch volunteers.