12/13/12 Funding for Indiana all day kindergarten for Indiana schools doubled for the 2012-2013 school year, according to a press release from the Indiana Department Education (IDOE) on Monday. The increase of $107.9 million drives the total funding for the programs to $189.8 million. The funds are scheduled to be distributed on December 14 to 338 public school corporations as well as charter schools. Forty-nine charter schools offer full time kindergarten and receive financial support through the Full Day Kindergarten grant. According to the IDOE, 79,110 students are enrolled in full day kindergarten programs. That figure is up from 66, 401 in the 2011-2012 school year. The total state funding will reach $81.9 million.
The increase in enrollment and subsequent funding is being credited to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. Daniels spearheaded 2012 legislation that was passed by Indiana lawmakers (House Enrollment Act 1376) guaranteeing $2,400 per full day kindergarten student reimbursement. Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Tony Bennett, said, “Governor Daniels put a much needed and long overdue focus on early childhood education in Indiana, and he fulfilled his promise to provide funds for all students whose families choose to enroll their children in full day kindergarten programs.” He added, “Today’s discussions about expanding learning opportunities for our youngest students would not be possible without is efforts and achievements to boost full day kindergarten in our state.”
The state entrance eligibility date for public school kindergarten stipulates that a student must be at least five years of age on or before August 1 in order to enroll in public school kindergarten. There are appeal processes for parents requesting early entrance.
Previously, funds dedicated to the Full Day Kindergarten Grant fund in the state budget were divided equally among all students enrolled in full day programs at qualifying schools. In the first year, 2005, the fund distributed $8.5 million to 10, 247 students. The grant per student was raised last year to $1,234.
To receive grant money, school districts are restricted from charging parents tuition fees for an all-day kindergarten program. Schools also receive one-half of a full time reimbursement figure. Plymouth Superintendent Daniel Tyree said, “If Plymouth gets
$5, 400 per student in first grade, then Plymouth would get $2,700 per student in kindergarten.” “This year, we were given an additional grant of approximately $1,500 per student.” said Tyree.
So why didn’t the schools get the full funding? Tyree said, “I posed that question to several legislators and this is the answer that I got. If the legislators had funded every schools at their per student dollar amount, it would have cost a lot more than they appropriated or could have appropriated.”
Tyree is also looking at the future. He said, “The bigger question is will the 2013 legislation continue to provide this $1,500 per student.” He added, “Personally, I would rather see them provide the grant rather than take a pool of money and divide it by the percentage of dollars each school gets per student.”
Kindergarten remains a line item in the Indiana State budget, and therefore, could be changed at some point.
Legislators may also concern themselves with whether to expand pubic education to pre-school programs as well. Governor Elect Mike Pence has stated that he would like to fund private preschools, but the final steps towards that type of funding would lie at the feet of lawmakers.
According to state law, Indiana children are not required to attend school until the school year of their seventh birthday. Although kindergarten is not mandatory, once a child is enrolled in public kindergarten, and then adherence to all attendance policies and other state statues applies.
Carol Anders Correspondent