- Associated Press - Sunday, February 21, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A pair of bills geared toward enhancing kindergarten education in Utah schools inched closer to passing through the Legislature.

Legislation that would provide extended-day kindergarten to families as well as let children start at an earlier age passed their first hurdles late last week. Now both are awaiting approval on the Senate floor.

One is a House bill sponsored by Rep. Lowry Snow that calls for an additional $10 million so roughly 285 schools can have optional extended-day kindergarten. The state currently spends $7.5 million on the service at 214 schools. The additional funds would be aimed at the students who are most in need of extra academic help, Snow said. The program would also target at-risk students from low-income backgrounds.

“The purpose of this bill is recognizing that there is an unmet need, but also recognizing that those students who are afforded the opportunity of this program do extremely well,” Snow said.

Sydnee Dickson, interim state superintendent of public instruction, is advocating the bill. Struggling students who get help early are more likely to be reading at grade level later on, she said.

“It’s really looking at smaller groups of students providing interventions and very targeted support,” Dickson said.

The bill passed the House earlier this month in a 58-16 vote. It was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee last week, the Deseret News reported (https://bit.ly/217wM49 ).

The second bill, sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson, proposes that children can attend kindergarten if they are 5 years old before Dec. 31 of the year they start. Current law lists the deadline as Sept. 2. Children would have to pass a readiness assessment test before enrolling.

“The purpose of this bill is to make sure that we’re serving the needs of students and their readiness, and not an arbitrary born-on date,” Stephenson said.

The legislation would set a limit on how many extra students schools could accept.

“I think it’s a safe number, and it will ensure that only those students who are truly ready will be able to do it,” Stephenson said.

The committee passed it 5-1.


Information from: Deseret News, https://www.deseretnews.com

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