Minnesota all-day kindergarten: Is this the year? - KMSP-TV

Is this the year Minnesota passes all-day kindergarten?

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

For years, Minnesota has tried to pass a bill for all-day kindergarten to be funded by the state, but, it's never received enough votes.

A group of DFL state representatives were at Richardson Elementary School in St. Paul on Monday to push for "all-day K" funding. House Speaker Paul Thissen and Majority Leader Erin picked Richardson Elementary as an example of how all-day kindergarten has helped improve student achievement and narrow the achievement gap in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District.

Thissen said $100 million of their proposed $700 million in new education spending would go toward making all-day kindergarten available statewide. Thissen said he believes Minnesotans are willing to support what he views as an important investment in the state's future.

Right now, fewer than half -- just 44 percent -- of the Minnesota's school children are in an all-day, every-day kindergarten program. About 15 percent of the state's kindergartners are enrolled in programs where a fee is charged. Those districts would have to drop those fees to get the new funding.

A Star Tribune poll earlier this month showed 56 percent support for an all-day kindergarten program funded by the state, with 29 percent were against the idea and 15 percent undecided.

It's been debated for years, but advocates say that with research piling up on the benefits of early learning, higher graduation rates and healthier adults, for example, lawmakers are buying in.

A University of Minnesota study of the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school district's all-day kindergarten program during the 2003-04 school year found significant increases in every academic skill tested. It also found the gap between minority and white students had been eliminated, while the disparity between low-income students and their peers had been diminished.

All-day kindergarten funding would not take effect until 2014, giving schools time to expand.

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