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With New Law in Place, Minn. Schools Prepare for Full-Day Kindergarten

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By guest blogger Alyssa Morones

Thanks to a law signed by Gov. Mark Dayton in May, all Minnesota families will have the option of sending their young children to all-day kindergarten free of charge. Now, the question becomes where to find space for the added sections of all-day kindergarten, reports the Star Tribune

Prior to enactment of the new law, districts were only required to provide half-day kindergarten free of charge. At present, about two-thirds of Minnesota's districts offer all-day kindergarten at no charge, but parents in districts that don't offer that option have to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for their children if they wish them to attend a full-day program. While public schools will still be required by law to offer half-day kindergarten classes, school surveys indicate that most parents will choose the full-day option next year. To provide the additional space necessary to housing more full-day kindergarten classes, some schools will be able to modify existing classrooms, but others may have to go to voters for financial help to build new additions or schools, the Star Tribune story explains.

Meanwhile, other school districts that had experienced declining enrollment in the past few years will be able to put their extra space to use again, the story notes. Mounds View Public Schools, for example, will open two kindergarten centers in two of its shuttered elementaries, rather than having to make costly additions to their existing schools.

Similar early-learning initiatives have been in the news lately. When President Obama outlined plans for early-childhood education in his 2013 State of the Union address, he included a proposal for the Department of Education to provide incentives to states to offer full-day kindergarten.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval this spring announced plans to add $25 million to the state's education budget, according to a story in the Las Vegas Sun. Over the next two years, the funding will go toward more full-day kindergarten classes and programs for students with limited English proficiency. In addition, New York City's next mayor, Bill de Blasio, touted his intentions to fund universal, full-day pre-K programs in the city as part of his plans for education.

According to a recent report from the Education Commission of the States, state kindergarten policies are inequitable. While 11 states and the District of Columbia require full-day kindergarten, five states leave the decision to offer any kindergarten at all up to individual districts. And readers might be surprised to learn that in 35 states, kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.

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