MADISON — With the addition of three public school districts offering 4-year-old kindergarten (4K) to children and their families for the 2017-18 school year, Wisconsin now has 98.3 percent of communities that provide free public education to 4-year-olds.
The three new districts — Ashland, Brighton #1, and Hudson — will receive 4K start-up grants to offset the lag in funding related to how students are counted for state aid purposes. The grants are authorized to provide $3,000 per student in the first year of a new 4K program and $1,500 per student in the second year. Funding is estimated to be prorated to about $1,400 per student at the end of the first year of 4K for these new districts and estimated at the full statutory allocation ($1,500) at the end of the second year. For the 2017-18 school year, 404 public school districts are offering 4K to 48,905 students, an increase of 141 students from last year’s unaudited figures.
“Research is clear that young children develop important skills and gain a foundation for future learning through 4-year-old kindergarten programs,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “Quality 4K offers rich experiences, including play-based learning that helps kids learn to work cooperatively and get along as well as expanding academic knowledge. This truly sets the stage for future success.”
Both Ashland and Hudson are using a community approach to provide services to children and their families. The community approach brings together local leaders representing business, schools, child care, Head Start, recreation, and parent education to develop programs that meet community needs.
Quality 4K programs, whether offered publicly or privately, have some common characteristics. They include highly trained teachers who have expertise in early childhood education, small class sizes, and a program that provides rich learning experiences and time for child-directed exploration. Public 4K programs are encouraged to follow the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, which are aligned with the academic standards students will encounter as they progress through public schools in the state.
In addition to 4K in public schools and various community approach settings, many 4-year-olds attend state-supported 4K through independent charter and private voucher schools. All 17 independent charter schools in Racine and Milwaukee that serve elementary students offer 4K programs, enrolling 697 students for the 2017-18 school year. For the state’s three private school choice programs, 100 schools offer 4K in the Milwaukee Parental Choice program, enrolling 1,964 students; 12 schools offer 4K in the Racine Parental Choice Program, enrolling 192 students; and 69 schools offer 4K in the Wisconsin Parental Choice program, enrolling 248 students.
For state aid purposes, 4K students are counted as 0.5 or 0.6 FTE (full time equivalent), depending on the services the schools provide. Under state law, 4K programs must offer at least 437 hours of direct pupil instruction. Outreach activities totaling 87.5 hours, such as child-parent activities, home visits, or parent education, may be a part of the scheduled hours for the 0.5 FTE student count or in addition to the 437 hours for the 0.6 FTE count.
NOTES: Wisconsin has 422 public school districts: 411 that provide services to elementary age students and 11 that serve high school students only. More information about the 4K Community Approach Impact is available online. A list of public school districts offering 4-year-old kindergarten and the district’s unaudited 4K enrollment for 2017-18 is in the official news release.