Full-day kindergarten funding for Indiana schools is expected to be $1,190.60 per student for the 2011-12 school year, the Indiana Department of Education announced this month.
That’s a little more than the $1,030 per student that schools received last year. But it’s nowhere near enough to cover the difference between half-day kindergarten, which the state funds, and a full-day program.
That means many parents can expect to again pay fees if they enroll their children in full-day kindergarten, just as they have in the past.
When Gov. Mitch Daniels announced increased funding for full-day kindergarten in April, the headline over his news release said, “Governor calls for increased education funding, completion of full day kindergarten.” The Republican-controlled legislature boosted annual funding for full-day kindergarten to $81.9 million from $58.5 million.
Some people thought that meant the program would be “fully funded” – but no. The increase enabled some school districts that hadn’t offered FDK in the past to provide it. But per-student funding increased by only about 15 percent.
Most Indiana schools spend around $6,000 per student to fund their operations. At that rate, you could argue the cost difference between half-day and full-day kindergarten is about $3,000 per student. The state grant covers less than half of that.
Some districts have used grants and federal funds to provide free full-day kindergarten in high-poverty schools and for low-income parents. But many have charged fees for parents who can afford it, and they’re likely to continue to do so. (In the Monroe County Community School Corp., the fee last year was $1,300).
The Indiana Constitution calls for a “general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.” Nothing says the state has to fund kindergarten. But as the constitution suggests, free public education for all is an ideal that’s worth trying to accomplish. For young children, we’ve still got a way to go.