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From The Daily Item:

Full-day kindergarten works. Just ask parents, teachers, superintendents and school board members.

Just don’t ask Gov. Tom Corbett.

In Corbett’s 2011-12 budget, $166 million in Accountability Block Grant funds will be cut, creating concern among Valley school districts and parents.

A report released Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children showed a connection between full-day kindergarten enrollment and later success in elementary school on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests.

School districts that elected to provide full-day kindergarten through Accountability Block Grant funds are apparently seeing improved performance on standardized assessments. The evidence emerged when the first students who attended ABG-funded full-day kindergarten reached third grade and took the PSSAs in 2008.

Since ABG funds first became available to school districts, the number of full-day kindergartners in Pennsylvania has grown 91 percent. In 2008-09, about 80,000 kindergarten students were enrolled in full-day programs in public school districts, charter and cyber-charter schools.

About 66 percent of the full-day enrollment — two out of three full-day students — was financed through the ABG program.

Don’t cut education funding, said Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.

“We appreciate the difficult decisions that administration has to make,” Benso said Wednesday. “But cutting resources for public education shouldn’t be one of them.”

The ABG program works, Benso said, and cutting the funds should be revisited.

“We need to restore this,” Benso said. “Districts across the state will be struggling trying to figure out what to do.”

Benso said that 350 school districts with 50,000 kindergartners are fully or partially funded by the ABG program.

The pattern of improved performance continued at the state level for the next two years. In 2010, school districts with full-day kindergarten saw math proficiency scores rise twice as much as districts with part-day programs.

And now, just as PSSA results are showing a correlation between full-day kindergarten and scores in third and fifth grade, the Accountability Block Grant has been eliminated in Corbett’s 2011-12 budget.

Cutting the program isn’t on the table, even with a $5.1 million budget shortfall, Shikellamy district Superintendent Robin Musto said.

“That’s the last thing we would do,” Musto said. “It wouldn’t even be an option because that is one of the most important programs.”

Eliminating all-day kindergarten is also non-negotiable in the Milton Area School District’s “Balancing the Budget” plan.

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