Early childhood education got a big boost in the state’s biennial operating budget, which was recently signed by Gov. Jay Inslee following the 2013 special session.
Starting this fall, all-day kindergarten will be introduced at select elementary schools statewide that have the highest percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
In the Puyallup School District, Firgrove, Spinning and Stewart elementary schools were selected, and Daffodil Valley and Liberty Ridge were chosen in Sumner.
State Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, said the decision to fund all-day kindergarten was a priority driven by the Legislature’s education strategy.
“We wanted to make sure we were investing money in ways that would provide a good outcome for students,” Dammeier said. “We did an increase in all-day kindergarten funding by an additional $88 million.”
Dammeier said 43 percent of kindergarten students in Washington will benefit from all-day kindergarten by the end of 2015. In the previous biennial operating budget, only 22 percent of kindergarten students statewide received all-day kindergarten.
“It’s just about double the funding that we previously had,” Dammeier said.
Dammeier, the vice chair of the House Early Learning and K-12 Education committee, said about 11 percent of the 2013-15 budget is earmarked for public education. The Legislature decided to fund all-day kindergarten in schools where at-risk students need the additional support to start off strong in their early childhood education, he said.
“We’re dealing with kids in high poverty and who may not have as much support at home,” Dammeier said. “The Legislature’s current goal is to go up to 100 percent, but not all legislators agree with that.”
Dammeier said all-day kindergarten may not be the best answer for every child.
“For example, if you have a very active family and a child may have stronger academic skills at home, then the parents may not think that all-day kindergarten is the best for that child,” he said. “I’m open to the fact that different kids need different solutions. It’s not a one-size-fits-all. We have to be able to adapt our programs to meet the individual needs of our students.”
Puyallup School District Superintendent Tim Yeomans said the state support is greatly appreciated.
“We’re very thrilled to begin offering all-day kindergarten in three of our schools,” Yeomans said. “We feel like this is the beginning of bringing this to all of our schools. It may take a little while to do that, but we’re very excited about the step forward.
“The school board is very excited about the long-term aspects of making sure that an all-day kindergarten experience is part of early childhood education in Puyallup,” he said. “Funding of these programs is a great deal, and it’s nice to have the state’s support in that.”
Meanwhile, the Sumner School District made the decision to provide two additional all-day kindergarten classrooms at Bonney Lake and Emerald Hills elementary schools. The investment will be supported with local levy dollars.
Sumner also is working toward all-day kindergarten in all of its elementary schools, according to a school district news release.
“The transition to full-day kindergarten is critical as we implement Common Core Standards, which are more rigorous than prior targets for student achievement,” district Superintendent Sara Johnson said. “We think this is good news for students and families, because it is the right thing to do for kids.”
If you register
First priority will be given to kindergartners who live within the attendance areas of the selected schools in the Puyallup and Sumner school districts. However, Puyallup School District will open five all-day kindergarten seats at each selected school to students who live outside of the attendance area. A drawing to fill those seats will be held in late August. Application deadline is Aug. 23. Forms are available at www.puyallup.k12.wa.us. Registration materials for the Sumner School District are available at www.sumnersd.org.