USC District gets boost for preschool
There is good news for United South Central’s preschool program and families who have four-year-olds who are ready for preschool.
Minnesota governor Mark Dayton announced recently that 74 school districts and charter schools will receive funding from the Department of Education to assist with preschools in their districts, and United South Central’s school district is one of those 74.
Superintendent Keith Fleming stated USC’s preschool program was given approval for 35 extra preschool students as well as a new preschool teacher, after having met specific guidelines from the state program.
USC’s school district based these extra student numbers of the preschool program on free and reduced meal counts of current students, meaning students in lower-income families would experience the full effect of the state’s educational benefits.
“The program will allow the USC?School District the ability to generate basic pupil aid from the Department of Education for the students enrolled,” says Fleming. “The District will receive additional pupil aid but also generate less tuition. It removes the tuition-based cost from the families. Therefore, the program is financed through the Department of Education rather than families.”
That is basically a free education for 35 four-year-olds in the USC school district.
Nearly 60 percent of the Minnesota school districts that applied to this program were rejected. Why? Because the small pool of $25 million given by the legislature was gobbled up quickly by those Minnesota schools in need of preschool funding assistance.
Fleming reported that prior to the additional dollars given to USC’s preschool program, families were able to participate in the Pre-K program through tuition or scholarships, which is still an option for parents who do not meet the requirements of the state-funded dollars.
“Keep in mind, this involves only the four-year-olds and does not involve any other program offered through Early Childhood Family Education. Only 35 students will be financed through the Department of Education, any additional students will be eligible for scholarships based on family need.”
The city of Wells has known about the need for preschool for some time, as the concern had been previously mentioned in multiple Wells City Council meetings. Gov. Dayton says the legislature dollars that were available and how quickly they were used by the state demonstrates the need to expand and provide more funding for pre-kindergarten learning programs.
“We do plan to start the program at the beginning of this school year,” says Fleming. “This does benefit our district financially, but there is an even greater benefit for our area families. We are able to expand programming which will give more families access to early childhood education and it will reduce the financial burden for families.”