District to seek pre-K funding

Published 10:17 am Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Austin Public Schools is seeking a boost for its early education program.

The state Legislature passed a bill providing $27 million for voluntary pre-k education, and Austin plans to seek funding by a July 1 deadline.

“We have all the pieces in place that we need to have in place, and I think we have a really good shot at getting that funding,” Director of Community Education and Communications Amy Baskin told the school board Monday.

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The $27 million will fund about 3,700 students in the state, and about 43 percent of the funding is set to go to Greater Minnesota, according to Baskin.

If Austin receives the funding, it could make for free preschool, as the new funding would fund about 60 percent of all-day programs and 45 percent of half-day programs.

“It would be funded on a very consistent basis, which would be nice,” Baskin said.

Preschool classes are held at the Community Learning Center, Sumner Elementary and Woodson Kindergarten Center.

Even if Austin gets the funding, the district does not plan to expand its preschool program, as the funding is aimed at the rough number of students currently served.

The district’s preschoolers would essentially become part of the general fund, according to Superintendent David Krenz.

The district should learn if it receives funding by Aug. 1.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Baskin said. “We’ll see if the state continues to do that.”