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Some good news among the bad

Local editorials

Using federal funds for all-day kindergarten shows big results

As Oregon school districts struggle with painful budget cuts, kindergartners at seven Medford elementary schools are proof that all the news is not bad.

Using federal Title I funding, the Medford district this year extended kindergarten at low-income-area schools to a full day from the previous half day. The results have been dramatic.

At Jackson Elementary School, 90 percent of kindergartners this spring met the district's reading skill test after attending all-day kindergarten since September. That compares with 77 percent for all 14 Medford grade schools.

At Howard, 94 percent met the benchmark ' at a school where only 50 percent did so in past years.

The results mean these children are more prepared for first grade and more likely to succeed in future years.

All this comes at no cost to the district's general fund, because it's paid for with federal Title I dollars, which are intended to give low-income children extra help with school.

— The Medford district received a boost in Title I money this year because of new Census data. Federal rules allocate Title I money to districts based on the number of students district-wide whose family income qualifies them for free or reduced-price lunches. The funds then are spent in the individual schools where at least 50 percent of students are in the lunch program. Half of Medford's elementary schools fall into that category.

In our view, extending the kindergarten day to give our youngest new students a head start with reading is the best possible use for this money. Much of the credit for this project goes to Oregon Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo, who made full-day kindergarten a priority statewide and encouraged districts to use federal funds to accomplish it.

All this goes to show that with a little ingenuity, it is possible to stretch existing dollars to make a significant difference in students' performance and their success in school.

The bad news is that ingenuity goes only so far. Title I money can be spent only in schools with a certain number of low-income students. So Medford's seven other grade schools won't get full-day kindergarten until the district can find a way to pay for it.

It may be a long wait.

Common sense

Gov. Ted Kulongoski put the ball squarely in the federal government's court this week when he pardoned Kari Rein. A hearing today before an immigration judge will now determine her fate.

The Williams resident is facing possible deportation because U.S. immigration officials checking her green card found an 11-year-old marijuana conviction when she re-entered the country in December after a family trip to her native Norway.

The governor pardoned her after his legal staff reviewed her case and he met with Rein and her husband. As Kulongoski's spokeswman noted, Rein expressed remorse for the crime, is no threat to public safety and was a model citizen before and since the conviction.

We hope common sense prevails.