Fitzgerald introduces bill to provide Pa. students with full day of kindergarten

PHILADELPHIA, June 5 – State Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald, D-Phila., has introduced legislation that would require school districts across the commonwealth to implement full-day kindergarten.

A similar bill was introduced in the last legislative session.

The bill would require each school district to establish and maintain a full-day kindergarten program for children between the ages of three and five by the start of the 2018-19 school year. It would also call for the creation of a Full-Day Kindergarten Implementation Advisory Committee. The committee would be responsible for developing and implementing a state plan for full-day kindergarten, advising each school district on how to best implement a full-day kindergarten program, and providing technical assistance and other resources to school districts.

“Educating and preparing Pennsylvania students for the world is not a part-time job and it should not be treated as one,” Fitzgerald said. “It is vital that we provide our students with a quality education as early as possible. Only offering half-day kindergarten programs is a disservice to students and robs them of the opportunity to successfully compete with their peers from other states and around the globe.”

The state plan prepared by the Full-Kindergarten Implementation Advisory Committee would be required to include a description of the full-day kindergarten program that would be developed, a statement of the program’s goals, a description of how the state Department of Education would coordinate with existing state-funded and federal-funded early-learning programs, a description of how the department would involve representatives of approved providers of early-learning programs, and a comprehensive financial analysis.

Several studies suggest that if students are not reading on grade level by third grade, they will be four times less likely to graduate high school by 19. If that same student lives in poverty, they are 13 times less likely to graduate high school on time.

“Third grade is such a crucial moment for most students because they are transitioning from learning to read, to reading to learn,” Fitzgerald said. “Establishing full-day kindergarten programs throughout our commonwealth will level the playing field for many underserved students, in both urban and rural school districts, and help them to read on grade level by third grade. Many of these students don’t have access to the same resources as their more affluent peers.”

In February, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed investing an additional $75 million in high-quality early learning childhood education programs in the 2017-18 budget. These programs provide students with the support necessary to perform better in grade school and students graduate at much higher rates than their peers who do not have access to early learning programs.

“We must continue to invest in our students early on to make sure that they get the proper return,” she said.