The N.W.T. Department of Education is defending its decision to start junior kindergarten in 23 communities this fall — and the funding arrangements that go with it. 

Deputy minister Gabriela Eggenhofer says some regional education authorities will see a funding reduction for the next two years so other communities can launch the program.

But she says education authorities, including Yellowknife school boards, will get money when they start offering junior kindergarten in 2016.

"To say there will be no additional funds to run junior kindergarten doesn't tell the whole story, because there actually will be anywhere between half a million and over a million extra that the boards will receive to offer the program," she said.

"And after they have implemented it, they will get funding for every four-year-old signing up for the program."

Eggenhofer says the territory provides about $22,000 in funding per student and that will include four-year-olds entering the system. Ninety per cent of funding for education authorities is tied to enrolment.

She says individual boards may choose to lay off teachers to cope with funding drops tied to decreasing numbers.