Nearly a fifth of Idaho kindergartners could qualify for a proposed new state-funded, all-day kindergarten program aimed at students who are struggling with reading, Idaho EdNews reports; the plan is being pushed by the state Board of Education and would carry an annual price tag of $9.8 million. The program would be optional both for parents and for school districts; EdNews reporter Kevin Richert writes that last year, 49 of Idaho’s 115 districts and eight charter schools offered all-day kindergarten to at least some of their students. In some cases, districts have used state dollars to pick up half of the cost, as the state funds half-day kindergarten, and billed parents for the extra half day of school.
However, Richert notes that the plan would have to win support in the 2016 Legislature, in a state where kindergarten remains optional and lawmakers have been reluctant to address early education; Idaho is one of six states that provides no state funding for pre-K education.
State schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra supports the concept but didn’t include the item in her budget proposal for the coming year, Richert writes; but it could be in Gov. Butch Otter’s budget proposal, as he’s been a strong supporter of the 20 recommendations of his education improvement task force, where the plan originated.
The task force called for a five-year strategy to address literacy, aimed at making sure students can read “before moving on to significant content learning.” The all-day kindergarten plan is the first step in the $21.5 million literacy strategy. You can read Richert’s full report here.