Only about 34% of Utah kindergarteners participate in a full-day program - compared to the nationwide average of 82%. Our low participation rate is due to limited and inequitable access to optional Full-Day Kindergarten (FDK) across the state.
Kindergarten enrollment is not mandatory in Utah. This is true in the majority of states; only 19 states and the District of Columbia mandate kindergarten attendance.
Local Education Authorities (LEAs) in Utah are required to offer only two hours of kindergarten programming per school day. Similar to Utah, in most states, schools are not required to offer FDK.
While FDK participation has grown in recent years, we have a long way to go before all Utah families have a real choice in the type of kindergarten programming that is right for their children.
How Kindergarten Is Funded in Utah
To help schools cover the cost of educating our children, the state provides a certain amount of funding per student enrolled in each LEA ($4,038 in 2022-23).
This funding amount per student is called a "Weighted Pupil Unit" or "WPU."
LEAs receive a full WPU for each student enrolled in first grade through twelfth grade.
For kindergarten programming, however, LEAs receive only 0.55 of a WPU for each enrolled child.
In order to offer additional kindergarten instruction beyond half-day programming, schools must combine a variety of funding sources to make up the remaining 0.45 of each WPU. These funding streams include:
State funds via Optional Enhanced Kindergarten (OEK), FDK expansion funding (new for SY2022-23), Teacher Student Success Act (TSSA) or Necessarily Existent Small Schools (NESS) programs
Local funding from property taxes
Federal Title I Funds for low-income schools
Private tuition paid by families
Only schools able to combine enough funding from these sources are able to offer optional full-day programs.
Not all schools have access to all of these funding sources. That is why the availability of optional FDK varies so widely from community to community, and so few families have the option to enroll their child in FDK.