GORHAM – A Gorham group that urged voters to reject the school budget because it didn’t fund all-day kindergarten is re-energizing after Gorham voters Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the $32.2 million spending plan.
Voters validated the school budget by 576 votes, 1,161-585.
Gorham also approved,1,081-725, to spend up to $450,000 for a fire truck. Passage of the school budget and the fire truck referendum prevailed in both voting wards and in central.
The All-Day Kindergarten for Kids Committee had instituted a spring campaign urging voters to reject the budget. That would have sent it back to the Gorham School Committee, giving all-day kindergarten another opportunity to be funded for the 2012-2013 school year. The committee had gathered 600 signatures on a petition, staffed a booth at Gorham Founders Festival, and has a Facebook page.
Gorham has a half-day kindergarten program, and it would cost an estimated $400,000 to expand it to all day.
Proponents of expanding kindergarten in Gorham say an all-day program is critical for an academic foundation for children. School officials have not argued the merits of it, but have pointed to the costs of implementing it in a struggling economy.
While all-day kindergarten won’t become a reality this year, the committee already is starting to campaign for next year, and vows to work with school and municipal officials. Members of the All-Day Kindergarten for Kids Committee planned to attend the School Committee meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 13, in Gorham Municipal Center, 75 South St., after the American Journal’s deadline, to voice continued support of the program.
The all-day kindergarten group is also readying for a forum on Tuesday, Sept. 18, that school officials promised earlier this month.
“While we are of course disappointed that the school committee will not be making changes to include all-day kindergarten for the 2012 school year, we are encouraged by the outstanding level of support and number of proponents we have met,” the group said in a statement released Wednesday by a member, Kelli Deveaux.
“We thank our supporters in this effort and vow to continue our work with the School Committee, administration and Town Council to find a way for all-day kindergarten for all kids in Gorham.
“We are going to hold the committee to their promise of a sub-committee that will look at how to implement all-day kindergarten and we look forward to the Sept. 18 meeting. It is our hope that the show of support for all-day kindergarten will not go unacknowledged by our local officials, and that they will work to make all-day kindergarten a reality and not just a committee.”
On its Facebook page Wednesday, the group is clearly preparing to continue its efforts:
“No rest on this issue. School Committee meeting tomorrow night, 7:00 at Town Hall, where public participation is allowed. We will be speaking about our commitment to working with the sub-committee and how to make sure All-Day Kindergarten for all Gorham students is in the 2013-2014 budget. Join us, show them we are still here, and still strong!”
In contested primary races, Democrat James Boyle of Gorham bested Timothy Driscoll of Westbrook, 580-97, for Senate District 6.
For the Democratic nomination for Register of Probate in Cumberland County, Gorham voters chose John O’Brien over Nancy Thurber, 321-241.