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Is full-day kindergarten right for Utah's students?

Aitana De La Cruz and Alexis Bernal react to their teacher during kindergarten class at Daniels Canyon Elementary School in Heber City on March 29. Months after lawmakers proposed a bill for full-day kindergarten classes, the debate continues over whether the change would benefit kids, parents and teachers.

Aitana De La Cruz and Alexis Bernal react to their teacher during kindergarten class at Daniels Canyon Elementary School in Heber City on March 29. Months after lawmakers proposed a bill for full-day kindergarten classes, the debate continues over whether the change would benefit kids, parents and teachers. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Months after lawmakers proposed a bill for full-day kindergarten classes, the debate continues over whether the change would benefit kids, parents and teachers.

Policy analyst with Voices for Utah Children Anna Thomas joined KSL NewsRadio's Dave and Dujanovic show to discuss whether the option could be in the cards for next year.

The Utah State Board of Education has expressed almost unanimous support for asking lawmakers for $51.4 million to fully fund a program statewide next school year, with only one member opposing the motion.

Thomas supports full-day kindergarten, and said schools are not forcing parents to enroll their students in such a program. They can opt out.

"Not everybody wants their kid in full-day kindergarten. Not everybody feels like their kid is ready. And that's great," she said. "Where we see different school districts and charter schools across the state expand their optional full-day kindergarten programs, they accommodated parents that still want to be in half-day (and) they've accommodated parents who don't want their kids in any kindergarten."

Do teachers support full-day kindergarten?

Teachers in full-day kindergarten classrooms said many of their students were ready for all-day classes.

"(Teachers say) it's definitely age-appropriate. (Kids) get to play, they get to practice, they take more time with their transitions, all of that stuff," Thomas said.

"And I think, you know, as our state policymakers are understanding better that nobody has to do anything that's not right for their family, that this is pretty much a slam dunk."

Thomas believes that the large majority of parents in Utah support the concept. And she said parents like it for more than just one reason.

"When optional, full-day kindergarten is made available, so many parents opt to use it," she said. "Not just because it's more convenient. But because they know their kids either need it or are ready for it or could really benefit from it."

Voices for Utah Children estimates that 82% of students nationwide are currently in full-day kindergarten. They said that Utah is behind the curve, with only about one-third of students in a full-day program.

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Tom Haraldsen

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