Illinois lawmakers consider making full-day kindergarten mandatory

Kindergarten

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A measure that passed the Illinois House would require school districts to implement full-day kindergarten across the state.

State Rep. Mary Beth Canty, D-Arlington Heights, filed the proposed legislation, which has the backing of the Democratic majority in the House and Senate. House Bill 2396 would benefit parents and children alike, according to Canty. 

“Full-day kindergarten programs also reduce burdens on working parents by providing a longer school day that more closely matches working hours and aligns within the other hours that children enrolled in other grades are in school,” Canty said. 

Sen. Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, asked during the committee hearing about the potential costs on lower-income school districts. 

“For them, it’s just an issue of having space,” McConchie said. “They are going to have to build eight classrooms to be able to do this. That is not something they will be able to do in short order. Plus, it will be a million dollars a year to fund this, and they want to make sure they are doing it in a responsible manner.” 

The measure, if passed into law, would require the districts to implement the changes by the 2027-2028 school year. Schools that lack the funding for the changes can apply for a two-year extension with the state. 

Gov. JB Prtizker’s budget proposal for 2024 includes an extra $250 million for early childhood education in Illinois. 

Canty said measures like hers are necessary for improving early education in Illinois. 

“In order to put all the investments that we have in early childhood and not ensure that full-day kindergarten is the next step, then I think we are not providing all the support that we can from the state level,” Canty said.

The measure passed through the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday and now awaits further action.

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