Full-Day Kindergarten Now!

Utah is Way Behind the Rest of the Country

Utah child advocates have long noted a striking educational disparity between Utah and surrounding states: 91% of Nevada children have the option of attending full-day kindergarten (FDK); 90% of Wyoming students enjoy that option, as do 95% of Colorado students. Nationally, 82% of kindergarten students are offered the full-day option. Utah’s number? Thirty percent! This legislative session, a broad coalition of groups, including the State Board of Education, most major school districts, The UEA, the PTA, Voices for Utah Children, United Way and many others, have launched a broad effort to redress this huge disparity. The Utah Citizens’ Counsel has added its voice to this group. We are supporting Representative Waldrip’s HB 193, which outlines a three-year roll-out that would give all Utah kindergarten students the option of attending a full-day program.

Parents are Ready for Full-Day Kindergarten

Some have assumed that Utah’s low FDK percentage springs from “cultural preferences.” Not true. Wherever the program has been offered by school districts, more than 85% of parents have signed their children up (p.2). The problem is that three in four Utah kindergarten students have no access to FDK because the state has failed to supply stable funding for the program.

The Benefits of FDK are Real

The benefits of a full-day program have been amply demonstrated:

• FDK students do much better in basic kindergarten proficiencies than half-day students. For example, in 2019, 40% of Utah full-day Kindergarten students moved up a full performance level, while only 16% of half-day students did so.

• The program benefits all students, but makes the biggest difference for at-risk students such as those with special academic needs, those living in multilingual households or those experiencing intergenerational poverty.

• The program is extremely cost effective. For every dollar spent on early intervention for young children we can save up to $12 in future public spending.

Utah has the money to support FDK. Now is the time to get it done.

The FDK program is affordable and has the support of the majority of Utah voters. Implementation would cost about $47 million during the three-year rollout phase—$23 million the first year and an additional $12 million each of the next two years. Then, FDK would be incorporated into the regular Weighted Pupil Unit funding program. There are ample state funds available for the program, and with state income tax revenue largely pledged to education by the Utah Constitution, continuing fiscal support is assured. In a recent survey, 68% of Utah parents expressed support for FDK (p.2). While higher taxes would not be required to implement the program, it is notable that fifty-seven to 69% (depending on the increased amount of taxes) of registered Utah voters indicated a willingness to pay more in taxes to expand FDK in Utah (p.2). HB 193 passed the House on February 17th. To help push this effort over the finish line, contact your state Senator urging a yes vote on HB 193.