NEW! Why fund optional FDK through a full WPU for every FDK student?

Optional FDK expansion is best funded through a full Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) for each FDK student, similar to how all other public school grades are funded. The estimated cost for offering a full WPU for every FDK student is an additional $53.6 million in new, ongoing funding. However, this figure assumes 100% participation in optional FDK - and we know that this will not be the case. The actual cost to expand optional FDK for all interested families, given the current barriers some schools face (such as adequate classroom space), is likely to be much less than that.

Currently, Local Education Agencies (LEAs) must apply for state funding for optional FDK through two separate grant programs, create additional unnecessary administrative burdens for schools. Funding optional FDK through a full WPU would eliminate the extra paperwork and enhance efficiency within education administration.

LEAs need time and maximum flexibility to roll out the right amount of optional FDK for their communities. Every school district and charter school is in a very different position when it comes to increasing the number of optional FDK classrooms for their local communities. For example, some have ample facility space, while others must plan ahead to find space for additional FDK classrooms. Additionally, some LEAs aren't sure how many local families will be interested in half-day or full-day kindergarten, and need time to gauge local preferences. Funding optional FDK through a full WPU

All districts and charter schools, regardless of their existing optional FDK programming, must have access to state optional FDK funding streams.

NEW! What happened with HB193, "Full-Day Kindergarten?"

In early 2022, the state legislature and the Governor approved HB193, "Full-Day Kindergarten," which included $12.2 million in new funding for optional FDK expansion. The final version of this bill, however, was quite different than the original bill that was proposed.

Originally, HB193 proposed a three-year plan to roll out $47.7 million to expand FDK to all interested families across the state. About $23.5 million would be distributed to school districts and charter schools in the first year of implementation, with the remaining funds distributed in the following two years. At the end of three years, all kindergarten funding would be distributed through the traditional Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) formula (rather than through multiple separate state funding streams, all with different reporting and application processes).

To accommodate a couple of larger school districts with particularly pressing concerns around available classroom space, the bill was adjusted to give LEAs four years to implement their optional FDK expansion plans.

This proposal won strong support in the House Education Committee, and easily passed a full House vote. It appeared to have the support needed to successfully move through the Senate, as well.

Right before the bill could be voted on by the Senate Education committee, however, it was restructured by legislative leaders on the Executive Appropriations Committee. The new version contained no multi-year rollout of funding, no guarantee of eventual FDK funding through a full WPU, and only $12.2 million in new ongoing funding.

NEW! Does the passage of HB193 mean that my kindergartner will have access to a full-day program?

Unfortunately, no.

While the new funding in HB193 means that some families will now have access to optional FDK who otherwise would not, it doesn't guarantee that your family will be able to participate in optional FDK.

The legislature tasked the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) with spreading the $12.2 million in new funding across 41 school districts and more than 100 charter schools. USBE granted the funding through a competitive process, based on need and demand, as well as the readiness of the Local Education Authorities (LEAs) to expand their optional FDK programs.

As a result, several district and charter schools will be able to offer more families the opportunity to participate in an optional FDK program. However, most LEAs are still not able to offer all parents a choice about whether to enroll their child in a full- or a half-day program. In some charter schools and school districts, there are still no optional FDK classrooms available to Utah families.

In order to offer all families the chance to select the kindergarten program that is right for their children, Utah must provide sufficient funding for every LEA to fully fund the right balance of FDK and HDK for their communities.

An additional $35 million (approximately) is required to fully expand optional FDK access in Utah.

NEW! When will my elementary school be able to offer more FDK access?

Unfortunately, we can't say for sure. Even if we were able to provide every school with enough funding right now to offer optional FDK to every family, some schools would not be able to do so right away. Several schools across the state need time to secure additional classroom space, purchase new materials for new optional FDK classrooms, hire additional kindergarten educators and adapt school transportation options as necessary.

However, we will be working hard to pass legislation in 2023 to ensure optional FDK access for all families within the next three years.

In order to offer all families the chance to select the kindergarten program that is right for their children, Utah must provide sufficient funding for every school district and charter school to fully fund the right balance of FDK and HDK for their communities.

That means appropriating at least $ million, with a guarantee to eventually distribute that funding in the same way that funding for all other grades is distributed. Only with that kind of assurance, can schools responsibly invest in the planning and preparation required to fully expand optional FDK access.

Why a multi-year rollout for Optional FDK expansion? Why not all at once?

We know that not all districts and charter schools are ready to dramatically expand their optional FDK programs right away.

We propose a three-year roll out to give schools some time to plan to address:

1) facility and classroom space issues,

2) materials and equipment needs for additional FDK classrooms,

3) additional kindergarten teacher recruitment, and

4) professional learning and support for HDK teachers transitioning to optional FDK.

We also want to give families time to observe their neighbors and friends’ involvement in optional FDK, as programs expand to serve more children. A three-year rollout will give families an opportunity to compare different approaches and assess the appropriateness of optional FDK for their own children.

How do you know that more families want to participate in Optional FDK than already do?

Based on anecdotal information from educators, information about past optional FDK expansion in certain areas of the state, and statewide survey data, we know that demand for optional FDK far exceeds current access.

Teachers and school administrators have shared many stories of families:

1) asking for full-day kindergarten options,

2) changing schools to access optional full-day kindergarten, and

3) even keeping their children out of kindergarten altogether due to the inconvenience of half-day kindergarten.

Districts and charters that have already expanded their optional FDK programs report that when given the option, between 80% and 95% of families choose to enroll in a full-day program.

Coalition partners contracted with Utah-based polling firm Y2 Analytics to conduct a statewide survey to assess the general popularity of optional full-day kindergarten. This survey, completed during the summer of 2021, revealed that 69% of Utahns who had been given the chance to enroll their child in optional FDK, took advantage of the opportunity. About 58% of those who did not have the chance to participate in optional FDK, would have if they had been given the opportunity.

Survey results also showed that FDK as an early education intervention is very popular with Utahns in general. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of registered voters surveyed said that they would “support the expansion of optional full-day kindergarten programs in all public schools throughout Utah.”

Will every schools eventually have to offer 100% FDK? Will families be required to participate?

No and no. In addition, all kindergarten attendance in Utah will remain optional.

Families will still be able to decide what works best for their children. Every district and charter school will have the flexibility to decide how much optional full-day kindergarten programming is appropriate to meet the needs of their communities.

No kindergarten student will be required to participate in an optional full-day program. As currently occurs in Utah communities where optional FDK is available to most or all families, we expect that schools will continue to work directly with parents to accommodate parents' desire for half-day options.

Will half-day kindergarten still be available for families that prefer it?

Yes. As currently occurs in districts and charters that offer optional full-day kindergarten to all or most students, school administration can work with individual families to ensure continued access to half-day kindergarten opportunities.

Kindergarten isn't even mandatory in Utah. Why bother expanding Optional FDK?

Students who attend FDK achieve better academic outcomes. This is true both in Utah and nationwide. Due to the successful outcomes associated with FDK, the vast majority of students in the U.S. (82%) participate in FDK.

While kindergarten isn’t mandatory in our state, between 92 and 96% of students enroll in kindergarten nonetheless. For this vast majority of the population, kindergarten enrollment is important. These families deserve access to increased academic success through better kindergarten programming.

It may surprise you to learn that kindergarten is not mandatory in many states besides ours, including some of our closest neighbors: Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona. Still, FDK participation rates in these four states dramatically outpace the participation rate in Utah.