QUICK LINKS:

Austin To See Windfall From All-Day K

Created: 01/21/2014 5:52 PM KAALtv.com
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- When it launched its program nearly ten years ago, the Austin school district was ahead of the curve.

Now, the state is going to help expand the program.

And it's putting Austin ahead of the curve again.

“Austin is really a role model," said DFL state representative Jeanne Poppe of Austin.

And it's a model more Minnesota school districts will be following.

"I think it is a win-win use of state money," representative Jeanne Poppe said.

Starting next school year, the state of Minnesota will increasing funding to help school districts pay for all-day kindergarten.

In most districts, it will be something new.

"What this does is really add new money to our revenue stream," said Austin schools finance director Mark Stotts.

For nearly a decade, the Austin school district has been funding all-day kindergarten through its general fund. And with the state increasing its funding:

"It means something in the neighborhood of $800-850,000 additional dollars coming into the district next year," finance director Mark Stotts explained.

But for school districts that are just launching their programs, all-day kindergarten poses some challenges -- even with an increase in state funding.

"Now they've got to find the space, whether it's building new or using portable classrooms or making space in existing buildings," Mark Stotts told us.

“In the last year we have increased to 18 classrooms here, so we are quite a large center," said principal Jessica Cabeen at the Woodson Kindergarten Center in Austin.

“The benefit is when you're investing your money early, you are closing the achievement gap quicker, and you have an outcome that is just much more positive," representative Jeanne Poppe told us.

“I have seen great growth in our students learning. one of the pieces, too, is just that change from the beginning of the year to right now," said Woodson principal Jessica Cabeen.

At this point, the Austin school district has no specific plans for its 800-thousand dollar windfall.

“It will go into the general fund with the rest of the state funding and property taxes and so forth we receive," finance director Mark Stotts told us.

The Rochester school district will be offering all-day kindergarten for the first time beginning this September.

School officials tell us it will result in additional costs because of the need for more classroom space.

But part of that cost will be off-set by some savings, like eliminating the need to run noontime bus routes.