Updated: 09/02/2014 11:08 AM
Created: 09/02/2014 6:44 AM KAALtv.com
Children all across Minnesota are heading back to class Tuesday, and there are some big changes for the youngest students.
Starting this year, the state is providing free all-day kindergarten.
About half of Minnesota schools offered free full-day kindergarten previously. In the past, if parents wanted their children to go to all-day kindergarten they would have to dish out a lot of extra money – more than $4,000 in some cases. No longer will parents be hit with fees or will school districts have to absorb costs of the extra classroom time.
Over the next month, thousands of homeowners, renters and farmers will receive property tax refund checks from the state because of expanded eligibility and new money for those programs.
Minnesota taxpayer dollars are paying for the extra education. Legislators set aside $134 million just for kindergarten, and districts are making changes to accommodate more young students; roughly 54,000 kindergartners will participate.
Educators hope the $134 million initiative will improve early education across the state.
Minnesota's director of early learning services says the extra class time will help ensure that every student is a proficient reader by third grade. Teachers say some new kindergartners don't know the alphabet or how to write their names.
Education experts say all-day kindergarten improves students' learning through at least first grade.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.