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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Full-day kindergarten receives passing grade

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The Kentucky General Assembly earmarked money for full-day kindergarten during the final hours of its regular session today.
Orangetheory Fitness, Newport Pavilion. 

House Bill 382 was amended to include $140 million for full-day kindergarten by the Senate Appropriations & Revenue Committee. The Senate then passed the bill 36-1. That was followed by the House voting 90-3 on the measure.
Senate Minority Caucus Chair Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, said he has long been an advocate for early childhood education when he stood in support of SB 382.
“Finally, we fund full-day kindergarten,” he said.
State government currently provides funding for only half-day kindergarten although most districts use local taxpayer money to offer a full-day option. Supporters of expanding state support of kindergarten had previously testified that the move would free up those local tax dollars for other much-needed school programs.

The bill has already received praise from education groups, including the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

“This investment reflects significant progress on our Big Bold Ask for K-12 education. As most school districts already fund full-day kindergarten with local dollars, we hope this additional investment is used strategically by school leaders to advance critical priorities, such as increasing reading and math proficiency by the 3rd grade,” said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, President and CEO of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Ramsey added that improving student outcomes in reading and mathematics – to the level of “basic” on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – has the power to increase Kentucky’s economy by $335 billion. 

The amendment to HB 382 also appropriated money allocated to the state from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to projects unrelated to schools. Those included:
·         $575 million to pay back the interest and principal on the federal unemployment insurance trust fund loan Kentucky took out during the pandemic;
·         $842,400 for Kentucky’s nature preserves;
·         $50,000 for the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission;
·         and $3.3 million to reopen the Northern Kentucky Regional Medical Examiner’s Office.
In addition, the bill allocated $50 million more for broadband expansion through ARPA funds. The General Assembly overrode a veto on House Bill 320 Monday to allocate $250 million for the expansion of broadband to residential areas.
Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, said the broadband funds in HB 382 serve a different purpose.
“This money is designated specifically for economic development where it may be needed, so this is ‘in addition to,’” he said.
HB 382 will now head to the governor’s desk.

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