“Melrose Mayor Rob Dolan said it took snow-removal savings from a nearly snowless winter for the city to be able fund free, full-day kindergarten back in 2012,” Wicked Local Melrose reported earlier this month.
“And while most kids in the commonwealth do have access to full-day kindergarten — 93 percent, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education — for many it comes at a price, one that not everyone can pay. The result: some children across the commonwealth are reaping the benefits, and others are not.”
That’s a shame because as Amy O’Leary, director of our Early Education for All Campaign, told Wicked Local, “We know that full-day kindergarten makes a difference… It’s really about more time for quality instruction, more time for teacher and student interaction, learning the routines of the day. If you think about two-and-half hours versus six hours, there’s just more time for instruction and learning at your own pace.”
The good news is that fewer public schools have tuition-based, full-day kindergarten programs. Last school year, nine districts eliminated tuition. This year, of the 65 remaining districts that charge tuition, several are rethinking the policy. Last month, Needham released a study and planning commission report. And Canton and Milton recently voted to eliminate tuition starting in the fall.
Advocacy may be needed again this year to preserve full-day kindergarten grants in the state budget. The Senate Ways and Means budget provided only $2 million for full-day kindergarten grants, a cut of $16.59 million relative to current FY16 funding levels.
Need information to advocate for full-day K in your town? We’ve updated our resources, using publicly available data from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
• Our fact sheet looks at the benefits of full-day K and explains current policies in Massachusetts.
• The enrollment map shows the percentages of children across the state who attend full-day K.
• Our tuition charts show how much full-day K tuition rates vary.
• And we’ve also mapped tuition rates for full-day K for the 2015-2016 school year
While access to full-day kindergarten has become the norm in Massachusetts, there’s more work to do to keep improving kindergarten’s quality and to ensure that kindergarten is a fully aligned part of the birth-to-8 continuum.
So please keep encouraging city and state officials to invest in high-quality, full-day K, so that all children have access to this critical early learning opportunity.