The Indiana Department of Education will send nearly $190 million to school districts across the state this week to help fund full-day kindergarten programs, which have seen a nearly 20 percent increase in enrollment this school year.
Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a law earlier this year to increase grant funding for full-day programs, which was partly a response to discovering hundreds of millions of dollars unaccounted for in state government.
The decision to support full-day kindergarten programming means IDE will cover nearly all the cost to districts that offer it free to students and families.
Some districts like New Albany-Floyd County Schools and Greater Clark County Schools have already been paying out-of-pocket to cover the cost and can now use the extra support for other areas of their budgets.
New Albany-Floyd County Schools Chief Business Officer Fred McWhorter said their kindergarten enrollment numbers have actually decreased this year after seeing a large increase the 2011-2012 school year. He said last year there were nearly 860 kindergarten students enrolled.
“This year it was 824. So we actually saw a little decline,” he said.
Each district will now receive $2,400 per student on top of what the state already provides for half-day programs. The combined allocations is meant to cover the entire cost for full-day programming.
McWhorter said in his district there is still around $200 the district needs to cover, but the extra funds are a huge help. Similarly, Greater Clark County Schools superintendent Andrew Meilin said the states funds does quite come up with the cost, “but its close and the $2,400 is a huge help.”
Still, districts like New Albany-Floyd County and GCCS need more from the state legislature, which will plan out its biennial budget next year.
“If we can get just a little bit of new revenue, one or two percent, here coming up in 2013 we’ll be back in the black,” said McWhorter.
New Albany House Representative Ed Clere, R-72, is on the state’s education committee and helped develop the funding formula for kindergarten programs. He said while the same amount of grant funding will need approval by the general assembly next year, he’s certain the allocation will continue.
“I think the legislature has been pretty clear to its commitment to full-day kindergarten and I expect that commitment to continue and increase if anything,” he said.