Without legislative approval, $276K would go away after 2018-19 school year; Oliver says funding has had a positive impact

    The Crookston School District last week was included on a list disseminated by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s office of districts “in danger” of losing funding for pre-kindergarten programming after the current budget biennium.

    Information from Dayton’s office indicates that 46 children in Crookston in the 2017-18 school year benefitted from just under $276,000 in state funding for expanded pre-kindergarten educational initiatives.

    Reached by the Times, Washington School Principal Denice Oliver, also the district’s Early Childhood Family Education director and head of Community Education, confirmed that the funding, through the “School Readiness Plus” initiative, is safe for 2018-19. But without legislative approval, it will go away after that, and the Crookston district, she said, would not be able to sustain the expanded early childhood programming it has been able to establish because of the increased state funding.

    Washington School taps into five funding sources to offer pre-kindergarten programming, Oliver explained. Funds come from:

    • School Readiness
    • School Readiness Plus (in order to be eligible, a child must have one or more risk factors)
    • Pathways II (in order to be eligible, a child must meet specific risk factors)
    • Early Childhood Special Education
    • Parent fees (it’s a sliding fee scale based on family income)

    Leading up to the current school year and from time to time during the school year, Oliver has extolled the virtues of the School Readiness Plus funding because of the enhanced pre-kindergarten programming it has made possible.

    Prior to the School Readiness Plus funding being put in place, Oliver said the district was able to offer 53 half days of programming for 48 students. With the funding in place, she said, 117 half days of programming have been provided to approximately 86 students.

    “We have also been able to offer a ‘mixed delivery system’ with Head Start, so out of the 86 students, 32 of them receive full day pre-k services,” she told the Times. In that scenario, those kids spend a half day at Head Start and a half day in School Readiness at Washington School. Also, Oliver added, with the additional funding through School Readiness Plus, funds in the district’s School Readiness program were able to be invested in new programming for three year old children.

    Oliver would like to see the added state funding made permanent.

    “This funding has moved us forward and allowed us to offer more programs for children,” she said. “The 117 days truly benefits at-risk students who may not have had some of the same opportunities as other students. These pre-school programs help all children prepare for kindergarten and ultimately give them a chance to be successful in school.”

    On Dayton’s list, Crookston is included with 58 other Minnesota districts his office says could lose the funding if the legislature doesn’t approve making it permanent.