Idahoans Want Full Day Kindergarten, And They Should Have It!
More than 68 percent of Idaho citizens favor full-day kindergarten according to BSU’s 2022 Idaho Public Policy Survey. The reasons for its popularity are numerous and compelling:
· The Idaho Constitution establishes state funded education.
· Strong kindergartens are a leading indicator of school and life success.
· Full-day kindergarten aligns with Governor Little’s Literacy initiative
· Full-day kindergarten meets the needs and values of Idaho families.
Does the Idaho Legislature have a duty to fund full-day kindergarten and take to heart this overwhelming tide of public opinion? Yes, they do.
The Idaho Constitution clearly states in Article IX, Section 1 that the “Legislature (is) to establish a system of free schools. The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”
Our state legislators have a constitutional duty to provide uniform, statewide, state-funded kindergartens in our public schools. Yet, kindergarten seems to be the exception to this rule.
When the state does not fund full-day kindergarten, districts reach for alternatives. Some districts offer full-day kindergarten if parents pay tuition for their five-year-old. Other districts provide full-day kindergarten by using supplemental levy funds, which shifts the financial burden from the state to local property owners. Both options violate the constitutional requirement that public schools be free and uniform and established/maintained by the state. This is a dereliction of legislative duty.
Governor Little has consistently championed funding early literacy education. Why? Because reading at grade level by the end of third grade is the single most important indicator of future success in school. Kindergarten teachers are professionals who find gaps in reading readiness, teach to fill those gaps, and improve on the reading readiness efforts started at home. Full-time kindergarten provides teachers with the necessary classroom time to teach and reinforce these skills, moving every child closer to or exceeding grade-level literacy standards.
That’s not all kids learn in kindergarten; social behaviors like taking turns, getting along with other children, and following directions set each child up for success. Decades of studies and data prove that success in kindergarten leads to improved high school graduation rates, higher incomes earned, and more responsible and engaged citizens. Funding full-day kindergarten is an investment in long-term success.
Idaho families want and need full-day kindergarten for their children. During the pandemic, most families learned firsthand that they are not the best school teachers for their children and gained a great appreciation for professionally trained teachers who provide a robust curriculum. In families where both parents work outside or from their
home, full-day kindergarten allows them to work a regular workday while their children are in a healthy learning environment
The Governor’s 2022-23 proposed budget includes a $47M line item for literacy, which school districts can use to fund full-day kindergarten. We applaud this as a step in the right direction, but a line item in the governor’s budget in an election year does not guarantee that these funds will be available into the future.
We call on the Legislature and the Governor to honor our state constitution and meet Idaho’s needs by fully funding full-day kindergarten now and into the future.