For most southern Minnesota school districts, the part of the education bill funding all-day kindergarten statewide is a welcomed change.
Almost all districts made the move years ago to offer all-day, everyday kindergarten on their own accord, as numerous educational organizations and studies began touting the importance of early childhood education.
St. Peter Public Schools was one of the first in the area, having offered all-day kindergarten for the past 15 years. The funding, to kick in for the 2014-15 school year, will help offset the cost that has been taken previously from the general fund to pay for the program, said Supt. Jeff Olson.
The St. Peter district is growing. With a projection of between 160 and 170 kindergartners in 2014-15, the district estimates an additional $250,000 in state funding for the all-day kindergarten allocation.
“(The growth) is a really good sign and a really good thing,” Olson said.
The bill increased education spending by $485 million over current levels, and the centerpiece was the $134 million to fund the all-day kindergarten in every school district.
Changes to the per-pupil funding formula are complicated, said Jerry Kolander, director of business affairs for Mankato Area Public Schools. Currently, the state allocates about $5,200 per pupil, and in the 2014-15 school year, that figure will increase to about $5,800.
How students are weighted also will change. Kindergartners, for example, were weighted at about .6 of a pupil unit, whereas pupils in grades 1-3 were about 1.2; pupils in grades 4-6 were about 1.1; and pupils in grades 7-12 were 1.3.
In 2014-15 the adjusted state formula means elementary students, including kindergartners, will be 1.0 and secondary students will be 1.2, Kolander said.
“They tried to make it a little more simple,” Kolander said.
With an estimate of 650 kindergartners for the 2014-15 school year, Mankato Area Public Schools will receive an additional $1.7 million in state funding for all-day kindergarten. The district has offered all-day, everyday kindergarten since 2006, Kolander said.