Michigan schools face kindergarten funding changes

DETROIT (AP) -- Updated state rules mean that public schools in Michigan must offer all-day kindergarten to receive full funding for each kindergarten pupil starting in September. The rules were approved last year by the Legislature and the state this month updated school districts about the half- and full-day options, as well as the financial consequences, The Detroit News reported recently. Districts still may offer half-day programs but will lose half of their per-pupil funding for each student, the newspaper reported. Most districts get an average of $7,810 in state aid for each child and are struggling to make up for other cuts. Many districts changed to full-day kindergarten in recent years in anticipation of the change. But others are grappling with the financial challenges of the switch. They must decide whether to add space and how to pay for additional teachers. "You lose money if you stay with half-day or if you go to all-day. It costs us $700,000 to add it and $1 million to not do it," said Berkley School District Superintendent Michael V. Simeck said. The district currently offers part-time kindergarten and a full-day, tuition-based class. The school board is expected to decide next month on what to do, he said. Under the current funding formula, Michigan school districts get a full day of funding for each kindergartner, regardless of daily class time. Some other districts, such as Utica Community Schools, are embracing the change in part because of the extra time it will give children in school. A typical half-day kindergarten class is three to four hours; a full-day program is six to seven hours. "We are excited about it," said district spokesman Tim McAvoy. "We are moving forward anyway. It makes educational sense, and there really is a demand from parents for this." Some educators have said that it was unclear whether the change was to take effect this fall or whether lawmakers needed to take additional legislative action. The state Department of Education said, however, the revision is now Michigan law. "It is very clear the Legislature passed a revision to the state School Aid Act last year, which provides districts with the option of offering either a half-day or full-day kindergarten program with the proportionate funding," said state Department of Education spokeswoman Jan Ellis. Published: Wed, Feb 1, 2012