This new map from the Children’s Defense Fund shows which states require school districts to provide a full day of kindergarten. Especially during years where budget cuts often hit education programs in the states, funding for a full day of kindergarten can get cut—except in states where law mandates that districts must make it available at no charge to parents.
Full Day Kindergarten in the States
Click here to see the map and fact sheets on full-day kindergarten in every state.
As you can see on the map, many southern states, such as Mississippi and Alabama, have statutes requiring districts to fund full-day kindergarten. And many states that might otherwise be known for relatively robust funding of education programs -- such as New York or Pennsylvania -- don’t require districts to offer kindergarten by law. That isn’t to say that school districts in New York or Pennsylvania don’t provide kindergarten, but that there aren’t laws mandating districts and schools to do so.
The map, and the fact sheets for all 50 states and the District of Columbia that are available with it, are invaluable, and they pique our interest on several other fronts as well. Which states cut the number of hours of kindergarten during a recession? Where full-day kindergarten programs are mandated, are they good quality? Which areas tend to charge tuition for the second half of the day of kindergarten? Are there sliding scales of payments for low-income parents who may not be able to pay full cost?
If anything, this new map and the resources gathered by the Children’s Defense Fund show us just how little data actually exists on kindergarten right now. Without a better grasp of the variability in children’s kindergarten experiences, it remains difficult to determine how well public schools are providing what children need in that crucial year of school. We need to gather better data and conduct more research on what is happening not only within states but districts and schools as well.