Here at Early Ed Watch, we’ve written about the importance of full-day kindergarten, especially in helping children keep up with the more rigorous demands set forth by the new Common Core State Standards. Yet kindergarten remains vulnerable to annual budgeting processes. Most states do not guarantee by law that children will have access to a full day of kindergarten, and six states don’t require districts to offer any type of kindergarten.
The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is highlighting these inequities with the release of its updated full-day kindergarten map, showing the statutory requirements for kindergarten across the country. CDF also released an update to its series of state-by-state fact sheets on full-day kindergarten.
Since last year’s map, few states have made changes. Indiana, however, reversed its policy of allowing school districts to charge tuition for the “second half” of a kindergarten day; though districts are still only required to offer a half day, if they do offer a full day, they must do so without charging tuition. In North Dakota, which previously did not require districts to offer any type of kindergarten, at least a half-day of kindergarten is now mandatory, and parents can only be charged for one half of the kindergarten day.
Still missing from our understanding of full-day kindergarten is how many school districts nationwide actually offer a full day of kindergarten, and how many charge for it. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that about three-quarters of kindergartners were in full-day programs as of 2010. But those data do not say whether those children’s parents pay tuition for part of the day, or whether the lowest-income and neediest children are enrolled in kindergarten programs.
As we wrote in our issue brief published last fall, Counting Kids and Tracking Funds in Pre-K and Kindergarten, funding for kindergarten is often “even less transparent than pre-K funding in many states.” The term “K-12” can lead to misunderstandings in states for which kindergarten is not provided alongside funding for first grade through twelfth grade. And without those data, it is virtually impossible to assess equity of opportunity and access across states and school districts.
Click here to check out the Children’s Defense Fund map and state fact sheets.