IT'S TIME FOR A FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN OPTION FOR ALL UTAH FAMILIES
Thanks to the passage of a scaled-back version of HB193, "Full-Day Kindergarten," during the 2022 legislative session, Utah continues to make progress toward providing real choice for Utah families when it comes to their children's kindergarten education. We still have work to do, though, to ensure equitable access to optional full-day kindergarten statewide!
When we invest in early learning opportunities for our children, we ensure positive outcomes for our entire state. For every dollar we spend on positive interventions for young children, we can save up to $12 in future public spending.
Full-day kindergarten (FDK) is a time-tested, evidence-based early learning practice that can give children from all backgrounds a strong and equitable start in school. Unfortunately, only about one-third (34%) of Utah kindergartners participate in optional FDK programming - while the national average for FDK participation is 82%.
The reason for Utah's dismal FDK participation rate is simple: access is limited and inequitable across our state. With insufficient funding available, most schools are able to offer FDK instruction to only the most academically at-risk students, leaving out thousands of other children who also would benefit.
Utah parents deserve a real choice when it comes to their children's kindergarten education! It's time for full state funding for optional full-day kindergarten!
- All families deserve a choice when it comes to the kindergarten program that is right for their children!
Many parents would choose optional FDK for their child if the option were available.
Optional FDK access is inequitable and uneven across the state; 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Multi-Year Expansion Plan
Optional full-day kindergarten must be 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.
The current estimated cost of getting to 100% access to optional FDK for all Utah families is only about $35 million! We are so incredibly close to ensuring equitable access.
Because not every district or charter school would be able to fully expand their programs right away, this cost should be phased into the state education budget over the next two to three years. Many schools need time to create additional classroom space, purchase more classroom materials, hire additional staff and appropriately develop their curriculum for additional instruction hours.
Choice for Parents & Flexibility for Schools
The Utah Full-Day Kindergarten Now Campaign is focused on increasing access to this valuable early education opportunity. We believe that participation in FDK should be optional for families, and that each district and charter school should have the flexibility to decide on the appropriate mix of full- and half-day programming that best meets their community's needs.
References and Handouts
Kindergarten Entry/Exit Profile (KEEP) Report for SY2020-21
Policy brief on current state of FDK access in Utah, info on popularity among voters, and evidence of academic benefits
Business Case presented to the Utah State Board of Education in support of FDK multi-year expansion plan
JLC 2021-22 Three-Year Legislative Priorities
PTA 2021-22 Legislative Priorities
UEA 2021-22 budget priorities