Austin, districts to learn if they made list for Dayton’s preschool funding

Published 9:57 am Monday, August 8, 2016

ST. PAUL — It’s almost time for Minnesota’s new preschool program to launch.

Gov. Mark Dayton and his top education official were set to announce Monday what schools will receive funding to offer preschool this coming school year.

Austin Public schools is One of several public school districts and charter schools in the mix for funding.

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In June, Austin district officials discussed applying for the funding. The money aims to fund about 3,700 students in the state, and about 43 percent of the funding is set to go to Greater Minnesota, according to Director of Community Education and Communications Amy 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.

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.

Monday’s announcement culminates Dayton’s years-long effort to expand early education options. The Democratic governor had originally pushed for a statewide voluntary preschool initiative but faced resistance in the Republican-controlled House.

The 2016 law provides $25 million for a phased-in preschool program that targets impoverished school districts without early education options. It’s expected to allow about 3,700 more 4-year-olds to attend preschool.

Minnesota lawmakers passed a statewide kindergarten program in 2013.