Bill proposes state paying total cost of full-day kindergarten

Published 3:46 pm Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Legislation proposed for the 2022 regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly would make state funding for the entire cost of full-day kindergarten a permanent part of the budget.

The measure is sponsored by Rep. James A. Tipton, R-Taylorsville, who co-chairs both a budget subcommittee on education as well as a special task force charged with studying kindergarten through 12th grade education funding.

“One of our top priorities is to help all children reach their full potential,” he said.  “That starts with creating clear, affordable pathways for learners to grow and succeed.  Not only is kindergarten their first classroom experience, but the concepts taught pave the way for a lot of basic skills each of us uses in everyday life. The bottom line of this funding is eliminating any opportunity gaps while opening those doors for families across the Commonwealth.”

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Most of Kentucky’s school districts currently offer full-day kindergarten programs, but the state only funds half of the costs, so districts must make up the difference with local taxes or tuition and fees. The General Assembly has debated funding the full cost for decades and made a one-time investment of $140 million to do so in the current budget, which ends June 30, 2022.

“This was a giant step in the right direction,” Tipton said, “but now is the time to make the long-term commitment.  We know that this investment will pay off in dividends for not only the children in our classrooms, but also our efforts to grow our economy, create jobs, and improve our quality of life.”

He pointed to education data that shows kindergarten provides the tools that students need to succeed on their educational journey, like early literacy and practice interacting with their peers. He says It goes beyond simply just teaching students how to read, laying the foundation for other important subjects like math, social studies, and science.

Tipton also says he believes that state funding for full-day kindergarten will provide local districts with a historic opportunity to focus on reading or learning preparation programs, that help shore up the significant learning loss that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused.

“State funding provides a consistent revenue stream and frees up the funding districts have been using, but it also means we’re going to keep an eye on how they use those funds,” he said. “We know there are needs that must be met, including children who have fallen behind because of this pandemic and the reliance on NTI and virtual learning.”

The measure is currently designated BR 275 and can be read by clicking here.