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UT Legislature Considers Preschool For All

A group on kindergarteners in class.

Proposals from the state legislature could soon lead to an expansion of Utah’s public kindergartens. The Utah House Education Interim Committee met Wednesday to discuss how increased early learning programs could boost early grade student math and reading proficiency.

Citing studies on preschool programs, committee Policy Analyst Tiffany Stanley said that early learning opportunities could help Utah students once they reach elementary school.

“Early learning opportunities, such as pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, are one way to improve early grade reading and math proficiency by strengthening the skills prior to school entry, leading children to master more advanced skills at an early age and perhaps even increase their ultimate level of achievement,” Stanley said.

Currently, the state has publicly-funded full-day preschool programs for children below or at the federal poverty line. Families better-off have access to part-day kindergarten. Reviewing the possibilities, Stanley said that more funding would be needed for an expansion.

“One option the chairs would like to consider is increasing the appropriation to cover full-day kindergarten for all at-risk students,” she said. Another option, if you want to cast a little bit wider net, would be to provide optional full-day kindergarten for all students, but to include a fee structure based on income. The option that would reach the highest number of students would be to provide optional full-day kindergarten for all students. This would cost roughly $60 million in addition to the current $7.5 million appropriation.”

Nationally, Utah has the highest percentage of households with children.