May 3, 2013
SC Senate Democrats Lead on 4-year-old Kindergarten Funding
COLUMBIA – Senate Democrats pushed through key public education reform this week when they convinced budget writers to fund expanding access to 4-year-old kindergarten to at-risk children across the state.
Senate Democratic Leader Nikki Setzler said the proposal offers hope of prosperity to our children and helps the state enhance its economic competitiveness. Having a highly skilled workforce will make South Carolina more attractive to industry, he said.
“Having a statewide 4K program changes the trajectory of public education and the lives of our children,” Setzler said. “With this funding, South Carolina has taken a tremendous step toward providing our children with a high-quality public education.”
Setzler commended the efforts of fellow Democrats on the Senate Finance and Education Committees to include 4K funding in next year’s state budget. He also acknowledged the leadership of Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who has introduced legislation to implement a statewide 4K program and has been a vocal supporter of the issue.
“The Senate Democratic Caucus continues to show its willingness and ability to bring forth ideas to put South Carolina first,” Setzler said. “Funding of 4k in next year’s budget was a cooperative effort with Senate Finance Committee leadership.”
At present, 4K programs operate in 36 of the state’s school districts. Under the proposal adopted by the Senate Finance Committee, children in low-income households residing in districts with high poverty would have access to 4-year-old kindergarten.
The Senate Finance Committee proposal calls for phasing in the program and agreed to put $26 million toward the effort next fiscal year.
Ultimately, the program will be available to at-risk students living in households with incomes up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level. It is projected the program will reach approximately 40,000 children when fully phased in.
National studies show 4K programs are a prudent investment for states. Children in 4K programs show gains in achievement and social development, are less likely to repeat grades and need special education classes and are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.
In addition, 4K participants are less likely to be incarcerated or rely on government assistance. Moreover, children in 4K programs a have higher chance of being employed as adults and earning more income over their lifetimes.
“This is a straight-forward, common-sense approach that benefits our children, our society and our state,” Senator John Matthews said. “Every dollar we invest in 4K programs now will pay greater dividends in the future – especially in our children’s futures.”