OLYMPIA — A total of 269 additional schools in 131 school districts across the state will begin receiving state funding for full-day kindergarten in the next school year. These new schools increase the total number of schools providing state-funded full-day kindergarten to 491 in 179 districts.

     These schools are located in 38 of our state’s 39 counties. On the Peninsula, Long Beach School will add all-day kindergarten thanks to the funding, according to the state. Ocean Park School previously received funds for the program and will continue to do so.

     The Washington state Legislature approved the additional funding in its most recent legislative session. These new funds double the number of kindergarten students eligible to receive funding, from 22 percent (17,603 students) in the 2012-13 school year to approximately 44 percent (35,420) in 2013-14.

     In 2006, the Legislature set a goal of providing funding for voluntary full-day kindergarten for all students beginning in the 2017-18 school year. This policy was added to the state’s definition of “basic education” in subsequent legislation. It also was reaffirmed as part of the definition of basic education in the state Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision on school funding.

     During the phase-in period, schools with the highest percentage of low-income students are eligible to receive funding first.

     The additional funding allows schools to increase the number of hours of kindergarten from 450 hours a year to 1,000 hours. When accepting the funding, school districts agree to connect with early learning providers in the area, conduct the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) and offer a rich and varied curriculum.

     “State funding of full-day kindergarten is a critical component of basic education,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. “Getting students off to a strong start benefits them as they move through the rest of the grades.”

    Despite being eligible to receive state funding, not all school districts were able to accept the money. For example, the Mukilteo School District had to decline funding for five eligible schools because of a lack of classroom space. “We’re disappointed that we can’t take advantage of the funding for full-day kindergarten classes,” said Mukilteo School District Superintendent Marci Larsen. “Our elementary schools are already overcrowded and one of the unfortunate consequences of overcrowding is that we simply don’t have the additional classrooms available to make full-day kindergarten happen. Our school board is currently considering options that could result in a bond proposal that would fund the construction of more elementary space.”

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