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Administrators hope state moves full-day kindergarten to head of class

Three years ago, Harrison County funded all three school corporations for full-day kindergarten. The county and the schools opted to fund the program for three years because they believed that by that time, the state would step in and fund kindergarten for not only Harrison County but for the entire state.
State Rep. Paul Robertson says the bill for full-day kindergarten has passed the house education committee, and is now before the ways and means committee, to see how much the state can afford to spend on the program.
‘It’s definitely been a high priority for me,’ said Robertson, who has been pushing for full-day kindergarten the last eight years. ‘Our youngsters are ready to learn, and it’s fun to them.’
After the ways and means committee looks at the bill, it will move to the Republican-controlled Senate.
Robertson says that anything this major will have to have support from Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Several research projects show that the benefits of full-day kindergarten outweigh the cost. It’s estimated that for every $1 spent on full-day kindergarten, the state gets $7 in return.
Full-day kindergarten leads to higher wages, fewer people on social services, an increase in academic achievement, better attendance and fewer special education referrals.
All three school corporations in Harrison County have offered full-day kindergarten for at least three years.
Lanesville began offering it in 2004 to students who were struggling and to anyone who wanted their child to participate in the program. The school continued to offer a half-day session of kindergarten, until last school year, when both kindergarten sessions were full-day.
‘Full-day kindergarten has a significant effect all the way to the seventh grade,’ said Dr. Phil Partenheimer, Lanesville’s superintendent. ‘It’s good for the kids. It reduces the amount of kids going to special education in the first grade, and it reduces the amount of repeaters.’
Partenheimer says full-day kindergarten and the alternative school have been the greatest things that county government has done for education.
In the South Harrison Community School Corp., Heth-Washington Elementary was the first school to have full-day kindergarten. It recently broke into the 90-percentile mark on the ISTEP+ test.
Then, New Middletown Elementary started full-day kindergarten; the other two elementary schools in the South Harrison district also added it.
At Corydon Elementary School, the new wing has eight sections of full-day kindergarten.
‘I think it works, and that it’s money well spent,’ said Dr. Neyland Clark, superintendent at South Harrison. ‘The research and practical experience we are seeing are showing it’s a real meaningful program, and it works well for the needy kids.’
At North Harrison, parents of kindergartners had the option of placing their child in half-day or full-day kindergarten, and 100 percent of the parents chose full-day.
‘It would not have been possible without riverboat money from the county commissioners and council,’ said Supt. Monty Schneider. ‘It’s a great program. I know teachers are sold on it, and we believe the parents are sold on it, too.
‘It has become a necessity,’ he said.
Schneider expects the state to have an answer by the end of April or early May about the fate of state-funded full-day kindergarten. He also said he anticipates that the topic will be discussed next month at the annual Legislative Update, when Robertson and State Sen. Richard Young speak with the public at the Harrison County Justice Center.
At that time, the school corporations will have a better idea of how much money they might need to ask for from the county to continue full-day kindergarten, if anything at all.