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Historic Funding for Full-Day Kindergarten Provides School Districts the Option to Focus on Reading and COVID-Recovery


Historic Funding for Full-Day Kindergarten Provides School Districts the Option to Focus on Reading and COVID-Recovery

As summer speeds by and we look towards the start of school, students and teachers will trade masks and temperature checks for recess and high-fives. Throughout the pandemic, students, parents, and teachers were faced with challenges, including changes to students’ routine, ability to complete schoolwork, and the lack of interaction associated with remote learning.

When schools reopen this fall, things will be very close to normal. However, as school begins, there will be new challenges, such as how to combat learning loss and the mental health impact of extended school closures. 

As we continue to learn the effect of extended school closures on students, legislators proved their commitment to maximizing student outcomes by making a historic investment in the future of Kentucky students. As part of the budget process, we appropriated $140 million dollars to fund full-day kindergarten, an allocation that essentially increased the SEEK funding to $4,175 dollars per pupil.

Kindergarten provides students the foundational tools they need to read and interact with their peers. Early literacy is far more than simply teaching students how to read. It lays the foundation for other important subjects like math, social studies, and science. For example, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Reading Assessments tool shows that 33 percent of Kentucky’s public school fourth-graders scored “Below Basic” in reading. In the same year, 27 percent of the state’s eighth-graders scored “Below Basic.” That corresponds with information from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) that shows only 31 percent of Kentucky students scored proficient or higher in science in 2019.

Many studies conclude that if a student is not reading confidently by the fourth grade, they are less likely to graduate from high school. According to a report published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 9 out of 10 high school dropouts were struggling readers in third grade. These skills empower students to break the cycle of poverty and strengthen long-term educational outcomes.

The $140 million dollar allocation will have an immediate, measurable effect on students. According to a study published by the American Medical Association, students who take part in full-day kindergarten programs demonstrate strong academic advantages just a year after instruction.

Most school districts in Kentucky already offer full-day kindergarten. However, the state only provides enough funding to cover half the cost, with the remainder coming from local districts, fees, or tuition. This appropriation will free up money for local school districts to reallocate to hiring more teachers, teacher raises, and facilities, among other things. My hope is that they use this opportunity to boost literacy across the board to help all children reach their full potential.

In addition to full-day kindergarten funding, we have another opportunity to invest heavily in our classrooms – approximately $3 billion in federal tax dollars coming to Kentucky for COVID-relief. During the July meeting of the budget review subcommittee on education, members heard from Kentucky Department of Education officials, and Superintendents from Rockcastle, Daviess, and Johnson counties on their usage of the COVID relief funds. Districts hosted credit-recovery summer programs with a camp-like environment, expanded mental health services by hosting a mental health summit, and improved educational technology.

As we continue to learn more about the effect of extended school closures and look forward to the new school year, the House Majority Caucus remains committed to creating thoughtful and impactful legislation that will benefit the future of Kentucky. 

Paid for By the Richard White Campaign Fund 
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