Schools ponder future funding for full-day K

Local schools want kindergartners to continue to attend school for a full day without charging parents for tuition, but first they need to know how much taxpayer money state legislators will give them to pay for the classes.

Indiana schools receive tax dollars to pay for employees’ salaries and benefits based on the number of students enrolled, but schools receive half as much for kindergarteners as they do for students in Grades 1-12. Early this year, Gov. Mitch Daniels announced the state was increasing funding for full-day kindergarten programs with an additional $2,400 per student.

The nearly $190 million Indiana now provides schools isn’t enough to cover the complete cost of full-day kindergarten at all school districts, but four local school districts either started full-day programs or stopped charging parents for the first time.

For example, the Clark-Pleasant school district was short nearly $135,000 needed to provide full-day kindergarten for this year’s 491 kindergartners, business and finance director Steve Sonntag said. But because Clark-Pleasant wanted to provide a free full-day program, which it had never done before, it covered the shortfall with the tax money it already received for its first- through 12th-grade students, Sonntag said.

The increase in kindergarten money was enough for Greenwood schools to be able to provide full-day kindergarten classes at all four elementary schools for the first time. And Center Grove and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson school districts dropped the full-day fees they’d been charging parents, which were $1,827 and $450, respectively.

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