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KinderPlus tuition lowered, scholarships established

Parents needing financial help for get their children into all-day, every-day kindergarten or pre-school and early childhood education programs may get it.

The Morris Area School Board on Monday approved lowering tuition for the district's KinderPlus program, and also establishing scholarship funds for that program and pre-school and early childhood education programs.

The district's KinderPlus annual tuition beginning next year will be lowered to $540 from the current $800 rate, and a $12,000 scholarship fund will be established to aid qualifying families.

The board also set up a $5,000 scholarship fund to help qualifying families pay for pre-kindergarten and early childhood family education programs.

Program and scholarship qualifications will be similar to that used to determine eligibility for the free and reduced fee meals program, Monson said, adding that extenuating circumstances facing a family also may be factored into eligibility decisions.

"It's a balancing act," said Morris Area Elementary Principal Brad Korn. "We'd love to not charge anything, but we're very pleased the board saw to it that we could reduce (tuition) a little bit."

The district will absorb the costs of the tuition reduction and scholarship funds, considering it money well spent if it increases students' abilities to lean as they move forward in school, said district Superintendent Scott Monson.

"If we can get kids to school and get them involved, it's almost like an investment," Monson said. "Kids who participate in programs like this benefit a great deal."

Korn said a Minnesota Business Partnership study showed that for ever dollar spent on children early in their development returns $7 in productivity to communities. Korn said more recent research suggests the return might now be closer to a $16 return for each dollar spent.

The KinderPlus program has boomed since its was introduced in the district for the 2005-2006 school year. The program began with one section and now has 67 students in four sections, Monson said.

Parents attending April 1 kindergarten registration at MAES will be informed about the programs and scholarships, and they also will be surveyed to determine which kindergarten program works best for them, Korn said.