by Amie Sites
Representatives from area school corporations say money set to arrive from the state this week will help offset costs of all-day kindergarten and level the playing field for youngsters.
On Friday, the state will distribute nearly $190 million in full-day kindergarten funding, according to numbers released by the Indiana Department of Education this week. Indiana’s decision to increase funding has led to an increase in students enrolling in the program across the state and more state dollars given to local schools, the department said.
Dr. David Bess, superintendent of Pioneer Regional School Corporation, said he had been advised last spring that his district’s share would be $141,600. Bess said the money would go toward operating costs of the kindergarten program, including salaries.
“It means the program is a little closer to being funded to the level of what it costs,” Bess said. “The program currently requires some additional funding from the corporation to pay the cost.”
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 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.
Cindy Douglas, principal of Caston Elementary School, said although her school wasn’t sure of the exact amount, administrators were anticipating the figure to be close to the $100,800 announced this week.
“It just goes to offset the cost of hiring full-time kindergarten teachers,” Douglas said. “In the past, we only got half of the tuition amount reimbursed.”
The full-day funding levels released Monday are based on enrollment numbers for the current school year.
Dr. John Bevan, superintendent of Southeastern School Corporation, said the $259,200 his corporation received would go right into general funds to help in covering the cost of the program.
“We’ve lost funding every year for the last five years,” Bevan said. “Any increase helps to fund the program.”
Bevan said full-day kindergarten helps to level the playing field for students.
“We have students come to us with computers at home and parents who read to them every night,” Bevan said. “We have other kids who have never seen a crayon or used scissors. When they get a full day of instruction, it helps catch them up.”
Ralph Walker, superintendent of Delphi Community School Corporation, said the $302,400 his corporation would receive would help to free up some extra funds and put the school corporation in the black.
Walker said the full-day program had speeded up the time frame for students to learn how to read. Kindergarten students, he said, are now reading at a level that used to be typical for first graders.
“If these students were enrolled in a half-day program, they probably wouldn’t be reading until the end of the second semester,” he said. “For us to be able to accelerate reading by a year is incredible. It gives them a head start on their learning.”
Amie Sites is a reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.