Substance of legislation
Provide funding to school districts for optional full-time kindergarten at the same rate as other grade levels. The state currently only provides half-time funding for kindergarten students.
Program would be “double-optional” – optional for families to use, and optional for school districts to adopt
Rationale for legislation
Only about ⅓ of school districts statewide provide full-day kindergarten in their districts without traditional state funding. Programs are funded with discretionary (literacy) dollars and property tax levies, burdening property taxpayers and leading to inconsistent availability to children and families throughout Idaho. This bill would provide opportunity to all school districts to offer full-day kindergarten without having to impose levies or take funds from programs directed to at-risk children.
Data is compelling. According to a 2016 report by the Education Commission of the States:
“Discrepancies in kindergarten funding and quality may leave many students less prepared to enter first grade than their peers who attended a quality full-day kindergarten program. This is of particular concern for many low-income students, as well as students with learning disabilities, who may require additional support services. Results of empirical research on the effects of full-day versus half-day kindergarten show that children who attend full-day kindergarten make significantly stronger academic gains in reading and math over the course of the kindergarten year than their peers in half-day kindergarten. Children in full-day kindergarten gain an additional 12.8 percent in reading assessments and an additional 10.3 percent in math assessments over children in half-day programs between the fall and spring tests. Additionally, more time in the classroom gives children the opportunity to have a greater number of early learning experiences and child-teacher interactions that help prepare them for their academic and developmental growth.”
Current estimates by the Legislative Services Office budget analysts projected ongoing costs to be ~$42 million, assuming 80% utilization.
Advocates for full-day kindergarten
In 2021 the Idaho School Board Association passed a resolution supporting funding kindergarten at the same rate as other grade levels:
“The lack of funding for full day kindergarten puts a hardship on local districts and charter schools. Funding kindergarten at the same rate as all other elementary students would allow districts and charters more flexibility in bridging the gaps seen in early childhood literacy.”
In November 2019, Governor Little’s “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” K-12 task force recommended statewide funding for full-day kindergarten, creating greater uniformity statewide, and recognizing that enrolling students in kindergarten is optional for the parent. Greater full-day kindergarten opportunities was expected to boost K-3 literacy and future student achievement