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Indiana full-day kindergarten leaps 19%

INDIANAPOLIS – The number of Indiana students enrolled in full-day kindergarten jumped 19 percent this year, to 79,110.

That coincides with a one-year increase in funding provided by the General Assembly from $82 million to nearly $190 million. Legislators will have to find the money again when they write a new two-year state budget.

The funds will be distributed Friday to public school corporations and charter schools, a Department of Education news release said Monday.

The legislature – in cooperation with Gov. Mitch Daniels – guaranteed $2,400 per full day kindergarten student this year. It comes via the Full Day Kindergarten Grant, which was created in 2005.

“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,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said. “Today’s discussions about expanding learning opportunities for our youngest students would not be possible without his efforts and achievements to boost full day kindergarten in our state.”

In the past, funds were dedicated to the Full Day Kindergarten Grant fund in the state budget and the money was divided equally among all students enrolled in full day kindergarten programs at qualifying schools and districts. In its first year, the fund distributed $8.5 million to 10,247 students – providing about $830 per full-day kindergarten student. Last year, the fund provided $1,234 per student.

The 2012 law requires that public school districts and charter schools applying to receive the grant funds agree not to charge parents tuition fees for their full-day kindergarten programs. All Indiana public school districts that offer full-day kindergarten, 290 total, applied for the funds and agreed to the no-tuition requirement. Forty-nine charter schools offer full-day kindergarten and receive support through the Full Day Kindergarten Grant.

In addition to the $2,400 per student allocation schools receive through the Full Day Kindergarten Grant fund, they also receive one-half the per-student allocation for the district under the state school funding formula. Last year, this amount averaged $2,767 per student.

Some school districts, such as Fort Wayne Community Schools, still supplement their full-day kindergarten program with funding from other district dollars because the state amount doesn’t fully cover costs.