Utah is (once again) trying to fund a full-day kindergarten

Renew: HB477 passed the DPR Education Committee unanimously. Our original story continues below.

Republican Republican Robert Spend love think this is the year the Utah State Legislature will fund full-day kindergarten for every school and family that wants one.

In 2022, the Legislature considers a $48 million a bill to increase access to full-day kindergartens. But funds are deducted only $12 million before the bill is passed. School districts and charter schools must apply to get some funds.

In October, the Utah State Board of Education predicts it will take over $50 million to provide an all-day kindergarten for every child in the state.

Spendlove said the board approached him about running the bill to allow for that funding. HB477 will provide funds to school districts and charter schools for kindergartens throughout the day through weighted pupil unitswhich is the basic amount of funding that states provide schools for each student they enroll.

Instead of having to apply for grants, each school would automatically receive money from the state budget for each full day of kindergarten students it had. The state has provided per student funding for kindergarten to the school district, but that’s about half the amount the school gets for students in other grades. The bill would change the student-weighted unit formula so schools get the same amount for a full day of kindergarten as they do for older students.

“What we know is that nationally, about 70 to 80 percent of kids this age have access to all-day kindergarten,” Spendlove said. “In Utah, it’s about 30%. So we’re really trying to catch up with other countries in doing this.

Spendlove thinks this will not only increase access, but will give individual schools more flexibility, especially if they don’t currently have the capacity to host an all-day program for every interested family.

“We’re basically giving each school total flexibility in how they implement this. So, they can choose to keep the system they have now, they can keep kindergarten half day, they can do one whole day kindergarten class,” Spendlove said.

The bill is appropriate $60 million, but Spendlove says it likely won’t cost the country that much. He said it would depend on how many children are actually enrolled in a full day’s kindergarten.

Parents will not be asked to register their child from kindergarten not mandatory in Utah and the bill requires school districts and charter schools to provide half-day options upon request.

Spendlove said he is working with the state board, school district, teachers and others in the education community to develop the bill and is confident that it will pass.

A Voice for Utah’s Children has been an outspoken advocate for full day kindergarten and is passionate about what lies ahead for MPs.

“We know from research from other states, from a school district that has done so in Utah, the all-day kindergarten works wonders for kids. And we know from our own research that many families want their children to participate in it,” Senior Policy Analyst Anna Thomas said. “So we thought it was just a logical step.”

Thomas likes the idea of ​​funding full-day kindergartens through weighted pupil units because, even though some schools are not ready to offer them yet, those schools can confidently build capacity knowing they have a stable source of funding for now. Ready.

However, Thomas is not as optimistic as Spendlove that the bill will pass this year. While he was cautiously optimistic, he was still nervous because of how legislative session ended last year.

“The generally supported bill fell apart at the last minute. It’s hard to let myself get too excited that this will be the year families finally get what they want and need.”

Thomas said one thing that felt different from last year was the amount of investment and community involvement. He said families and others regularly go to the Capitol to talk to lawmakers about funding kindergartens and that parents across the state write opinion pieces in newspapers to express their support.

“More than in previous years, if this bill is not passed, it will feel like a huge disappointment,” said Thomas. “I think there’s a different level of accountability this year for our country’s leaders, and that makes me feel even more hopeful.”

Spendlove’s bill is scheduled to conduct its first hearing at the DPR Education Committee February 21.