Last Thursday, Minnesota legislature proposed to allocate funding for voluntary full-day kindergarten in Minnesota. As of right now, Minnesota is one of about a dozen states that allows schools to charge tuition for full-day kindergarten. Senate estimates this allocated funding would cost Minnesota about $170 million for the biennium. This funding would not take effect until 2014, which gives schools time to expand.
This bill would have a very positive impact on Minnesota education and Minnesota as a whole. Research has shown that full-day kindergarten students learn and retain more in both reading and math and receive higher marks both in primary and middle school. Full-day kindergarten children also have better attendance.
The benefits of full-day kindergarten go beyond academic performance. Children are able to spend more time in creative classes such as art and music, as well on physical activity through recess and physical education. Perhaps that is why they demonstrate more positive social behavior.
Full-day kindergarten makes lives easier for kindergarteners and their parents, especially in low-income families. Some parents may opt to spend the other half of the day at home with their children, and that is alright under this bill, which makes full-day kindergarten a voluntary option. For some parents, who need to work full-time jobs, having a child under all day care makes transportation to pick their child up much less of an issue. In addition, parents don’t have to worry about the additional costs of finding childcare for the other half of the day.
Full-day kindergarten also helps close the achievement gap. At-risk children in full-day kindergarten made significantly more progress in language proficiency than those in half-day kindergarten. They are also more likely to make it through primary school without repeating a grade, saving the school district money. Children in full-day kindergarten tend to be less advantaged, and benefit from receiving free childcare for a full day. Teachers get significantly more time to work with students that are below grade level individually.
Very rarely is Minnesota on the bottom of the rankings for any state measurement, especially for education. Full-day kindergarten is one of the issues where Minnesota lags behind. The legislature proposed a bill which would put us on the top of this list, and it would greatly benefit our state if it passes.