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Enrollment Surge in Indiana Schools Partly Due to Kindergarten Loophole

Legislators working on extra funding, but may also change law to stop schools from counting some kindergarteners twice

(INDIANAPOLIS) - Legislators say they've solved part of the mystery of how enrollment in Indiana schools has jumped by more than two-thousand students. The loophole which allowed it to happen could be plugged soon.

State law allows parents of four-year-olds to ask school districts' permission to send them to kindergarten early if they're ready to start school. But Senate Appropriations Chairman Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen) says about 500 students were admitted early, then repeated kindergarten the next year and pumped up the student count. That's nearly a quarter of the extra students the state is now trying to fund.

Mishler says the number of four-year-old kindergarteners jumped about 50-percent in one year, suggesting more schools have spotted the appeals process as a way to pay for a year of preschool.

Mishler says that's not the purpose of the appeals process. He's amended the funding bill to exclude four-year-olds from the funding formula.

The Senate could vote next week on the bill, which dips into a school reserve fund to give schools an extra 75-million dollars over two years. But even that amount might not be enough. There have been four different enrollment estimates, with another set of figures due next month.

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says he's proposed raising the ante to 100-million, more than even the highest estimate. He'd give the five-member State Budget Committee the power to review any request for more than that. Bosma says legislators are committed to completely filling the shortfall.

(Photo: Jetta Productions/Thinkstock)

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