UTAH IS ON IT'S WAY TO 100% ACCESS TO OPTIONAL FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN FOR ALL UTAH FAMILIES!
Great news for Utah families who have been waiting and working for access to optional full-day kindergarten for their children, in their neighborhoods.
During the 2023 legislative session, the Utah Legislature passed HB477, "Full Day Kindergarten Amendments," sponsored by Rep. Robert Spendlove. On March 17, Governor Spencer Cox signed the bill into law.
Thanks to years of hard work by families, educators, policy champions and community leaders, Utah now has a pathway toward real kindergarten choice for Utah families. HB477 allows schools statewide to use state education dollars to fund their optional full-day kindergarten programs in the same way that other elementary school grades are funded.
The best way to find out if your local elementary school will be using new state funding to offer full-day kindergarten in the upcoming school year, is to contact that school directly.
During the 2021-22 school year, only about 3 in 10 Utah kindergartners were enrolled in a full-day program, compared to 8 in 10 nationally. With HB477 in place for this upcoming school year, we anticipate that at least 6 in 10 Utah kindergartners will be enrolled in a full-day program!
WHAT DID OPTIONAL FDK ACCESS
LOOK LIKE IN YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT IN 2021-22?
- Kids in FDK make greater learning gains.
Utah kids in optional FDK (full-day kindergarten) regularly perform 2 to 4 times better than their HDK (half-day kindergarten) peers with regards to basic kindergarten proficiencies.
Students have more time to learn and practice new skills.
Teachers have more time to understand students' unique strengths and challenges.
- All families deserve a choice when it comes to the kindergarten program that is right for their children!
Most Utah parents choose optional FDK for their child when the option is available.
Optional FDK access is inequitable and uneven across the state; in SY2021-22, more than two-thirds of Utah families have no opportunity to place their child in an optional FDK program.
Where a family lives should not be the primary factor that determines whether their child can participate in optional FDK.
- FDK is an important early learning investment that saves time and money down the road.
Special learning needs are able to be assessed and addressed early.
A strong foundation of literacy means fewer special reading interventions at older ages.
Students who participate in optional FDK achieve greater long-term academic outcomes.
- FDK provides families with a full-day of high-quality, age-appropriate learning in a safe environment.
Children without sufficient learning support at home can catch up to peers before first grade.
Multi-kid families are able to better coordinate pick-up, drop-off and after school activities.
Kindergarteners who have food insecurities have access to two healthy meals each school day.
- FDK better prepares students for first grade.
Children are able to "practice" school activities such as lunch hour and assemblies.
Teachers have time to guide students through daily transitions, with developmentally-appropriate "down time" as needed.
Students grow their abilities to play, share and resolve conflict with peers.
A STABLE FUNDING SOURCE SCHOOLS CAN COUNT ON
Ensuring equitable access to optional Full-Day Kindergarten programs
Many districts and charter schools would like to offer optional FDK programming to more families in their communities. However, most do not have a reliable source of funding to do so. Unless schools can patch together enough money from various federal, state and local sources to cover the costs, the families in their communities are out of luck.
In order to justify hiring more kindergarten teachers, making space in their buildings and investing in professional development, schools need to know that they can count on state funding that won't be cut on a whim.
Now, education administrators have the guaranteed funding stream that they have been asking for, to support the blend of kindergarten programming that is right for their local families!
The Best Way to Fund Optional Full-Day Kindergarten
Going forward, optional full-day kindergarten will now be funded as part of Utah's baseline education budget, funded in the same way that every other grade is funded, and reliably supported with state education dollars every year.
Because funding for optional full-day kindergarten is now available through the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU), districts and charter schools will have the time and flexibility to build their kindergarten programs at their own pace. When and if they choose to expand, the funding will be there to support them.
Maximum Flexibility for Schools and Families
This new funding stream leaves choices about kindergarten up to families and schools. Kindergarten attendance in Utah remains optional, as in many other states. Families still have the choice to have their children attend only a half day of kindergarten.
Because not every district or charter school will be able to fully expand their programs right away, this funding is being made as flexible as possible. HB477 does not require any school district or charter school to offer any optional full-day kindergarten. The bill also does not specify any timeline or other expectations for how (or whether) schools expand their full-day kindergarten offerings.
Some schools will need time to create additional classroom space, purchase more classroom materials, hire additional staff and appropriately develop their curriculum for additional instruction hours.
The best way to find out if your local elementary school will be offering full-day kindergarten in the upcoming school year, is to contact the school directly and ask.
References and Handouts
Optional FDK Expansion Handout
Full-Day K Press Release November 1, 2022
Table: Utah FDK Access by School District
Kindergarten Entry/Exit Profile (KEEP) Report for SY2020-21