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State Withholds Funding For 4-Year-Old Kindergartners

By Jeanie Lindsay, IPB News | Published on in Education, Government, Statewide News
(Barnaby Wasson/Flickr)
(Barnaby Wasson/Flickr)

Schools who choose to enroll 4-year-olds in kindergarten will pay the price, as a new law prevents schools from receiving state dollars for kids who aren’t old enough at the start of the school year.

A surprise uptick in public school enrollment led to a school funding gap of around $22 million this year. Lawmakers say schools enrolling 4-year-olds in kindergarten, and keeping them there the next year were part of the problem. But a change going into effect this year says schools won’t get state money for kids who aren’t at least 5-years-old by Aug. 1.

Senate Appropriations Chair Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen) says the intent is to keep schools from abusing the school funding formula.

“The fear was ‘this is going to blow up the formula,’ because all these schools now were going to go out and bring in all these 4-year-olds for like a preschool type, and then retain them, and send them a second year of kindergarten,” he says.

Mishler says some schools had advertised preschool type programming and used the state’s K-12 funding to pay for it. But, he says, that’s not how it’s supposed to work.

“The school funding formula was not intended for that. It was not intended to enroll them early to retain them and pay for a second year of kindergarten,” he says.

Schools can still enroll 4-year-olds if they are developmentally ready for kindergarten, and some schools plan to those children and absorb the costs. Others have decided to stop allowing those students for now.

Mishler says the issue will likely be looked at again during next year’s legislative session as lawmakers consider education funding that makes up a large portion of the state’s budget.