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Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith Welcome Kids Back to School

As first graduates of all-day Kindergarten enter First Grade classrooms, Dayton Administration touts early successes of program across Minnesota

9/8/2015 10:14:43 AM

As first graduates of all-day Kindergarten enter First Grade classrooms, Dayton Administration touts early successes of program across Minnesota

Governor, Lt. Governor continue effort to expand access to preK for all Minnesota children
ST. PAUL, MN - Governor Mark Dayton, Lt. Governor Tina Smith, and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius today welcomed students back to school at Brimhall Elementary in Roseville. More than 847,000 students are heading back to school across Minnesota, including 58,800 Kindergartners. For the second year, over 99.6 percent of those Kindergartners will attend school all-day, free of charge.
"I wish all Minnesota students and teachers a fun, safe, and successful school year," said Governor Dayton.
Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith reiterated their shared commitment today to expanding access to preK for all Minnesota four-year-olds, noting that additional investments in the state's youngest learners are necessary to build on the successes of all-day Kindergarten.
"It was terrific to greet these kids as they came back to school today, and it is clear the first year of all-day kindergarten was a success," said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. "Now it's our responsibility to build on this success and educate the world's best workforce, so we can build an economy that works for everyone."
Successes of All-Day Kindergarten
Thanks to a transformative investment made by Governor Dayton and the 2013 Legislature, over 57,400 students attended free, all-day Kindergarten for the first time last year. In its first year of implementation in 2014, 99.6 percent of Kindergarteners attended school all-day. Before this investment, just 54 percent of Minnesota kids had access to all-day Kindergarten, and many families were forced to pay for all-day access - sometimes as much as $2,500 to $4,200. Thanks to free all-day Kindergarten these families are now saving thousands of dollars.
"Last year was the first time we provided Minnesota families with access to free, all-day Kindergarten, and the response was overwhelming," said Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. "More children were enrolled in kindergarten than we projected, showing how truly necessary and important this investment was for Minnesotans. By offering kindergarten to every child, at no cost, we are breaking down barriers of access and ensuring every child has a strong foundation that will propel them forward for success in the future. Each year, as more students are able to benefit from this investment, I know we will see achievement gaps continue to close throughout Minnesota.
The academic impact of all-day Kindergarten has been significant. Students who attend Kindergarten all day make faster and more lasting gains in reading and literacy. Students are also better-prepared for first grade and future learning because they have a better understanding of classroom expectations. All-day Kindergarten also provides students more time to learn appropriate behaviors and develop stronger social and emotional skills.
Expanding Access to Pre-Kindergarten
Now that nearly every five-year-old has access to all-day Kindergarten, Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith are focused on expanding access to early learning for all Minnesota four-year-olds. Last session, Governor Dayton proposed investing $343 million in preK, which would have provided access to free preschool for over 47,300 young learners. Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith plan to continue their push for that proposal, leading into the 2016 Legislative Session.
Under the Governor's proposal, an estimated 47,300 students would have access to voluntary, free preK. Within just a few years, an estimated 57,000 four-year-olds statewide would benefit - giving every kid the great start they need to prepare for Kindergarten, and succeed in school and life.
Participation in high-quality pre-kindergarten education programs can dramatically impact the lives of Minnesota children. But right now, Minnesota ranks last out of the 41 states with preK programs for access for four-year-olds. For years, Minnesota has faced persistent achievement gaps affecting students of color and students who live in poverty. But a growing body of research shows that giving kids a great early start is the best strategy to close those gaps, and help all students achieve their greatest potential.
New Education Investments Made During the 2015 Legislative Session
During the 2015 Legislative Session, Governor Dayton and the Legislature invested $525 million in preK-12 education. The following is a brief synopsis of those new investments.
New Investments in Early Learning - Governor Dayton and the Legislature invested an additional $100 million in early learning initiatives aimed at narrowing achievement gaps and helping young learners prepare for success in school. Those initiatives included:
  • Early Learning Scholarships - An additional $48 million was invested in early learning scholarships, bringing total funding to $104 million for FY2016-17. This will allow thousands of children to access early education and care. Also, $3.5 million was invested in the Parent Aware initiative, which will allow the Quality Rating System to continue and add providers.

  • Expanding Access to Head Start - Head Start promotes school readiness for low-income children by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional developments, and by providing families health, educational, nutritional, and other services. An additional $10 million was invested in Head Start last session, providing access to over 1,200 young learners.

  • Community Partnerships - An additional $4 million was invested in the Northside Achievement Zone and Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood. Both programs partner with families and communities to permanently close achievement gaps.
Investments in K-12 Schools - Governor Dayton and the Legislature made important new investments in K-12 schools last session, including:
  • More Funding for Every School - An additional $346 million was invested in K-12 schools, bringing the per pupil formula to $6,067 per pupil by 2017. This new funding will help ensure every child receives an excellent education, and the support they need to succeed in school.

  • Helping Kids Read - The Minnesota Reading Corps provides tutors for students who are struggling with their literacy skills. Last session, Governor Dayton and the Legislature invested $3.5 million in the program, helping expand access to serve 2,500 more students.

  • Reducing Test Time - Legislation passed last session reduced the amount of time students are required to spend on testing in school. Schools may now spend no more than 10 hours per school year testing students in grades 1 through 6 on district-wide or school-wide assessments. The limit is 11 hours for students in grades 7 through 12.
Improving School Facilities - An additional $32 million was invested to help school districts provide important maintenance to classrooms and other school facilities.
  • Helping American Indian Students - Governor Dayton and the Legislature invested $17.5 million this session for schools serving American Indian students, and Bureau of Indian Education schools. This new funding will help eligible schools develop plans to support academic achievement, decrease the dropout rate, and improve the school climate for American Indian students. It will benefit over 19,000 American Indian students.

  • Supporting English Language Learners - There are over 68,000 Minnesota students for whom English is not their first language. In 2014, Governor Dayton and the Legislature extended the number of years schools can serve these students from 5 to 6 years. In 2015, the Governor and Legislature invested another $3 million to extend those services to a total of 7 years per student.
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