When the school bell rings on Tuesday morning, it will call nearly 60,000 kindergarten students who will start free all-day kindergarten.
KARE reports that it's the first year that every district in the state will offer the all-day option. Minnesota lawmakers in the last legislative session approved $134 million dollars to fund the longer day for the state's youngest public school students.
KSTP adds that previously, many Minnesota school districts required parents to pay tuition for all-day kindergarten, which meant some families opted for free half-day programs. The Star Tribune notes that the all-day tuition cost for parents ran from $2,000 to $4,000 per year, adding that in surveys conducted this spring by several school districts showed that parents overwhelmingly favored the all-day option.
Research suggests that children who attend all-day kindergarten are more prepared for success as first graders. KARE's story noted studies linking all-day K to higher levels of early reading and math skills. The Star Tribune story cites studies that show that the full-day option provides the most long-lasting benefits for poor students, particularly those learning to speak English and special needs students. "State education leaders say all-day kindergarten might be the key to reversing the state’s achievement gap between white and minority students," the story said.
Education Minnesota, the state's teacher's union, had promoted the all-day program and is airing television commercials about the educational advantages for children.
Nationally, the percentage of children in full-day kindergarten programs has grown to 76 percent, up from a mere 10 percent in the 1970's.