Indiana gets full-day kindergarten

Gov. Mitch Daniels
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Full-day kindergarten will now be available next fall to every Hoosier family that wants it. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill into law Tuesday morning.

With the first stroke of his pen, the governor signed into law a bill that will make full-day kindergarten available to everyone.

The bill also includes a taxpayer refund if state reserves reach a certain level. At this point, Gov. Daniels says that refund is estimated to be around $70 for individual returns and $140 for joint returns.

The bill also strengthens police and fire pensions and doubles the funding in the State Fair Victims Compensation Fund.

Full-day kindergarten gets top billing.

"It will be universally available without any additional charges," said the governor. "The bill prohibits school districts that have full-day kindergarten from charging for it. So every Indiana family and history says it will be virtually every Hoosier family in Indiana who wants full-day kindergarten experience for their five-year-old will have it."

"When we look at that chart for early childhood and see us going from 14 percent to next year when every Hoosier family that chooses full-day kindergarten will be able to attend full-day kindergarten, I think that is a tremendous benefit - especially when the state puts an emphasis on primary level literacy, said Dr. Tony Bennett, superintendent of public instruction.

That chart Dr. Bennett is referring to showed that in 2006 14 percent of the state's children participated in full-day kindergarten. Obviously that will increase dramatically next year.

"It's going to give our students the opportunity to get enrichment in the classroom and continue to grow on an equal level," said Stephanie McGaha, Mooresville Public Schools.

That is why Newby Elementary in Mooresville is hosting an All-Day Kindergarten Fair for parents on Wednesday night. Teacher Nikki Moore, who is typically down five children in her afternoon kindergarten class, will have increased expectations next year, but she has already seen test scores increase relative to all-day kindergarten.

Moore is excited, because next year she will not only be the teacher, she will also be a parent.

"I would not have him in any other program, except for full-day," Moore said.

The governor also signed a bill to begin a nine-year phase out of the state's inheritance tax. Many family farms had to be sold to pay inheritance taxes. The hope is that problem will be eliminated in the future.