Last week, Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) co-led the introduction of legislation to ensure every child in America has access to high-quality full-day kindergarten, a cause she originally championed in West Des Moines, Iowa when her oldest child was denied that option at their local school district.
“When my oldest son was getting ready to start kindergarten, I discovered that access to full-day kindergarten in West Des Moines was determined by a lottery – leaving some kids behind despite overwhelming evidence of the value of a full kindergarten education. As a mother, that wasn’t something I could accept – and I pushed the school district to change that, successfully securing all-day instruction for the entire district,” said Rep. Axne. “Now, I’m joining my colleagues to push for that fix nationwide – because I’ve seen firsthand the benefits that our kids get from that change, and want to see it offered to the forty percent of students that don’t currently have that full-day option. With my own family’s experience, I will be pushing to advance this bill by telling my story, and the story of the Iowa students that I’ve fought to help.”
The Universal Full Day Kindergarten Act creates a grant program in which States and Tribes that apply will receive funding to carry out no-cost, high-quality, full-day kindergarten programs taught by qualified teachers. The bill would also require the Department of Education to release an annual report on the availability of full-day kindergarten across the United States.
Only 17 states and the District of Columbia require school districts to offer full-day kindergarten – leaving an estimated 40 percent of kindergarten-age students without access to these critical programs.
Research has shown that full day kindergarten increases academic achievement for elementary students. Full-day kindergarten students were shown to make greater improvements in math and reading comprehension than students enrolled in half-day.
Additional advantages of full-day kindergarten include more positive social interactions, higher self-esteem, greater creativity, and more.
The positive gains for children enrolled in full-day kindergarten extend beyond just academic success. The American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that full-day kindergarten students were more likely to have long-term benefitsthat would improve their health over their lifetimes.
The bill was introduced with Reps. Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), and Ritchie Torres (NY-15).
“As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to make sure that all students, no matter where they live, have access to high-quality education and start their academic experiences on equal footing,” said Rep. Gallego. “I am proud to reintroduce the Universal Full-Day Kindergarten Act, the first-ever legislative effort in the House to achieve universal full-day Kindergarten. Not only is ensuring access to full-day Kindergarten the right thing to do to set students up for success, it also would increase economic opportunities for parents and families and provide a lifeline for underfunded and low-income school districts across the country. I am grateful to my colleagues Rep. Jacobs, Rep. Axne, and Rep. Torres for joining me to make access to Kindergarten a reality for all American families.”
This bill is endorsed by the National Education Association.