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December 18, 2012

Full-day kindergarten enrollment up 19 percent

State increases funding

Indiana’s decision to increase funding for full-day kindergarten has led to an increase in students enrolling in kindergarten programs across the state and more state dollars doled out to local schools.

On Dec. 14, the state distributed nearly $190 million in full-day kindergarten funding, more than double the $81 million spent last school year, according to numbers released by the Indiana Department of Education.

The money went to 338 public school corporations and charter schools that collectively saw a 19 percent increase in the number of students enrolling in full-day kindergarten programs: from 66,401 in the 2011-12 school year to 79,110 students this school year.

The increase in enrollment and funding is due to legislation pushed by Gov. Mitch Daniels that put more money into a state grant program that helps qualifying local schools pay for their full-day kindergarten programs. The legislation boosted the amount to $2,400 per student, almost twice the amount that schools got the year before.

It triggered some schools to expand their half-day programs into full-day kindergarten, and allowed other schools to offer a full-day program without having to charge extra tuition to parents. The additional dollars were only approved for this school year and next, but some lawmakers see a permanent shift taking place.

“The increase in funding is critical,” said state Rep. Ed Clere, a New Albany Republican who sits on the House Committee on Education. “But just as critical is the policy decision that the legislature made in identifying full-day kindergarten funding as a priority. It was an important first step in the right direction, but it won’t be the last step. I think there is growing support in the legislature to support early childhood education as one of the most important investments we can make.”

The full-day funding levels for schools was released Monday by the Indiana Department of Education. It’s based on enrollment numbers for this current school year. Attending kindergarten isn’t mandatory in Indiana, but public schools in the state are required to offer some kind of kindergarten program to eligible students. Some had opted for half-day programs or charged parents tuition for their children to attend a full-day program.

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