Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin are among some of the states that are currently purposing additional cuts to education-some as much as a 10 percent. Indiana is one of few states that has made a conscious effort to continue working to restore education funding.
The recession brought Indiana's revenue intake to a screeching halt, causing the state's 2009 budget to be cut to ensure we lived within our means and didn't raise taxes. Education was one of the many areas that took some of those cuts due to fiscal revenue being so low.
Since then, we have been working to restore that funding and last week we got good news to help us continue that trend.
An announcement came that Indiana's recent revenue forecast was showing we are back on the right track with revenue intake-we are finally taking in more revenue that was originally estimated.
So even though funding for education makes up more than half of our proposed state budget, we will be able to provide additional funding to education-$150 million more.
A $150 million increase won't fully restore the cuts that were made, but it's a huge step in the right direction. However, with continued fiscal responsibility in this economy, we will eventually get there, and sooner rather than later.
We plan to use a portion of the $150 million to provide schools access to full-day kindergarten (FDK) grants. The rest will go to increasing K-12 school funding formula levels and creating an incentive fund to reward excellent teachers.
Currently, FDK grants reach about 75 percent of FDK students. An increase to the grant program would serve the remaining 25 percent of students, ensuring all Indiana school districts can provide FDK access.
School corporations in Indiana that currently provide FDK programs have found academic and social benefits. A study in the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation revealed academic, social and behavioral benefits. On standardized tests, full-day kindergarten children performed significantly better than half-day kindergarten children in third, fifth and seventh grade on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills or CTBS test.
In addition, I have read several reports of teachers in Indiana explaining how they have seen significantly greater progress in full-day students in literacy, math, general learning skills and social skills. So, needless-to-say, it's a program that is worth considering, if schools haven't already done so.
The grant program was established in 2007 to provide financial support to schools who wish to provide FDK programs. Since the program was enacted, the number of Hoosier kindergartners participating in FDK programs has increased from about 10,000 in 2005 to nearly 57,000 in 2010.
Under the K-12 tuition support formula, kindergarten students are counted as ½ of a student. Therefore, a school corporation receives half the amount of funding for a kindergarten student as it receives for students in grades 1 through 12. The idea behind the FDK grant program is to give schools additional funding to make up some of that difference.
Grants for FDK are available to school corporations that apply to the Indiana Department of Education. The grant amount per student is a per capita amount that varies depending on the number of applicants.