Schools allow 4-year-olds to attend kindergarten despite new law financially penalizing schools

HSE, IPS among districts to grant early admission

INDIANAPOLIS -- Some school districts are allowing 4-year-olds to attend kindergarten despite a new state law that financially penalizes schools for doing so.

Hamilton Southeastern Schools is allowing 47 students who turn 5 after August 1 to attend kindergarten during the 2018-19 school year.

The district estimates it will take a $300,000 funding loss from the state as a result.

HSE spokeswoman Emily Abbotts said they’re making exception for one year only, and they already have staffing in place to accommodate the students.

In Indiana, students have to be five years old on or before August 1 to attend kindergarten.

Governor Eric Holcomb signed into law House Enrolled Act 1001 on March 19 which financially penalizes schools for allowing children to attend kindergarten early.

School districts can give waivers for students to attend kindergarten, but if they do, under the new law they will take a funding hit of approximately $6,000 per student.

“We made this decision to support our families and our youngest learners,” said Abbotts. “The Hamilton Southeastern School Board of Trustees voted to accept Early Entrance Kindergarten students for the 2018-19 school year in response to the new piece of legislature that impacted funding for Early Entrance to Kindergarten across the state. Students that qualify for Early Entrance to Kindergarten have birthdays between August 2nd and September 1st.”

Indianapolis Public Schools is also allowing younger students despite the new law.

IPS accepted 51 kindergarten students who don’t turn five until after August 1.

IPS spokeswoman Carrie Black said the new legislation was enacted after IPS had already completed round one of their Choice Application Lottery.

IPS stands to lose $357,663 in state funding to educate the students, but the district will absorb the cost.

The district said families matched during round one fell under the waiver, which allowed students in who turn 5 by September 1, 2018. 

Families who are applying in round two and three have to follow the new eligibility requirements, said the district.

The MSD of Lawrence Township school board voted Monday to not allow students to grant waivers as they have in the past for some students who turned five between August 2 and October 31.

Instead, the district will offer an accelerated preschool class for students who turn five between August 2 and 31 and qualify through the early entrance process.

The district would charge $175 a week for the program, and students that successfully complete it would have the option to be promoted to first grade.

Call 6 Investigates spoke with parents in MSD of Wayne Township who are upset the district will not allow 4-year-old students to attend kindergarten during the 2018-19 school year.

RELATED:  Families concerned new law shuts out students from attending kindergarten early

Currently, Wayne Township has 98 students on kindergarten waivers, which is about $650,000 in state funding they would stand to lose if they let four year old students attend.

Sen. Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen) is the state lawmaker who pushed for the legislation. Mishler said the change was put into place to address rising kindergarten enrollment.

“When looking into the increased enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year, one of the main factors was a significant increase in 4-year-old students who were appealing to enroll in kindergarten early and then repeating kindergarten in the next year,” said Mishler in an email to RTV6. “We found that some schools were using this as a kind of state-funded pre-K program, which is not the intent of the school funding formula.”

The change is expected to save $18.5 million next year.

Mishler emphasized it’s still up to the schools to decide if they want to accept a 4-year-old kindergartner.

“Parents can still appeal to the school for their child to attend kindergarten at 4, and it is still the school's decision to accept a student at 4 years old if they believe the child is kindergarten ready,” said Mishler in an email to RTV6.

Senator Mishler said while this is a done deal for the 2018-2019 school year, the legislature can review the issue during the next budget and make any changes if necessary.  

“Originally, I suggested a percentage of retention or using the September enrollment date as the cut-off date for inclusion in the funding formula,” said Mishler in an email. “During conference committee, the House suggested changing it to August 1. This is the standard date currently in statute for kindergarten students. We also use this date for voucher eligibility. I believe their intent was to use the August 1 date to keep it consistent.”

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