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These 74 school districts will offer free pre-k programs this year

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Thousands of kids will get to go to pre-kindergarten for free this year.

Gov. Mark Dayton announced Monday that 3,302 more 4-year-olds in 74 Minnesota school districts will have the opportunity to go to pre-K this fall for free, thanks to $25 million in state funding that was approved by the Legislature this year.

Among the districts that will get additional funding are 14 from the metro area, 50 districts in greater Minnesota and 10 charter schools. For a full list of districts that got funding this year, click here.

Here's a map of the districts that applied and received state funding (in orange), districts that applied but didn't get funding (in cream) and the districts in white didn't apply.

The pre-k funding program targets school districts that serve high numbers of low-income students where they may have limited access to other pre-k programs, the release says.

More funding needed

Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith have been staunch advocates for state-funded voluntary pre-K, with supporters saying access to preschool is one way to help close the education achievement gap that plagues the state.

"But without additional funding, thousands of kids will be denied the educational opportunities they need to achieve their greatest potentials. Lt. Gov. Smith and I will keep fighting until every Minnesota family has the choice to send their child to preschool," Dayton said in his announcement.

This new funding means roughly one-fifth of Minnesota's school districts will offer a free pre-K program. But 60 percent of the school districts that applied for the latest around of funding were denied.

“The investment we made this session brings Minnesota closer to optional preschool for all 4-year-olds, regardless of their families’ ability to pay. But we have a lot more work to do,” Smith said.

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