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Full-Day Kindergarten Gets Boost from Indiana Governor

by guest blogger Andrew Ujifusa

About three weeks ago, my fellow blogger Sean Cavanagh did a piece on Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and how he has become a sort of standard-bearer for Republican governors on education issues.

Sean's interview with Daniels at the National Governors Association's winter meeting also touched on the fact that GOP leaders such as Daniels have found themselves siding with President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on some issues (new teacher evaluations), but still disagreeing with the Democratic administration on others (relationships with teachers unions).

So perhaps it's worth noting that on March 20, Daniels signed legislation that includes an $80 million funding boost for full-day kindergarten in the state.

Specifically, for the 2012-13 school year, all schools will receiving $2,400 in grant funding from state coffers for every student who is eligible for and enrolled in all-day kindergarten for that year. The money is available for both traditional and charter schools, although the bill does say that those schools that apply for the grant funding cannot charge any fee for for full-day kindergarten.

Right now, Indiana schools receive a half-day of kindergarten funding through a state funding formula, plus a state grant supplement to allow them to pay for full-day kindergarten. Essentially, the law means that the supplement will increase from $1,234 per student this school year to $2,400 per student next year.

The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Jeffrey Espich. Not surprisingly, Indiana Department of Education spokesman Alex Damron said the department is "very excited" to see the grant increase.

In related news, Daniels also signed into law a bill requiring the Indiana Education Roundtable to set up an advisory committee for dealing with early childhood education issues. Led by Daniels and the state Superintendent Tony Bennett, the roundtable sets academic standards as well as passing scores for state assessments, among other responsibilities.

As Sara Mead pointed out in her Policy Notebook blog last month, 10 states and the District of Columbia require schools to offer full-day kindergarten.

In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, there has been gnashing of teeth over $100 million in state dollars dedicated to full-day kindergarten. Districts received and used the money in the 2011-12 budget year, even though it was technically put in the 2010-11 state budget. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has argued that even though the $100 million isn't in his 2012-13 budget, it can't be counted as a cut from 2011-12.

By the way, Sean has not gone anywhere: He's now covering charter schools and public and private school choice at Education Week, and has a new blog called Charters & Choice. Check out his interview with Michelle Rhee on private school vouchers. Her take on the issue might surprise you. And make sure you add Charters & Choice to your reading list.

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