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Congressman Gallego Introduces Universal Full Day Kindergarten Act

May 24, 2021
Press Release

Washington, DC- Last week, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), along with Reps. Cindy Axne (D-IA), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), and Ritchie Torres (D-NY), introduced the Universal Full-Day Kindergarten Act to ensure that every American child has access to  high-quality full day kindergarten.

There is overwhelming evidence that kindergarten programs improve academic outcomes, aid in kids’ social and emotional development, and improve student active engagement, independent learning, and stress levels. This is especially true for low-income students and students of color. Despite these findings, only 17 states and the District of Columbia require school districts to offer full-day kindergarten – leaving an estimated 40 percent of kindergarten-age students without access to these critical programs.

The Universal Full-Day Kindergarten Act creates a grant program in which States and Tribes that apply will receive funding to carry out no-cost, high-quality, full-day kindergarten programs taught by qualified teachers. The bill would also require the Department of Education to release an annual report on the availability of full-day kindergarten across the United States.

“As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to make sure that all students, no matter where they live, have access to high-quality education and start their academic experiences on equal footing,” said Rep Gallego. “I am proud to reintroduce the Universal Full-Day Kindergarten Act, the first-ever legislative effort in the House to achieve universal full-day Kindergarten. Not only is ensuring access to full-day Kindergarten the right thing to do to set students up for success, it also would increase economic opportunities for parents and families and provide a lifeline for underfunded and low-income school districts across the country. I am grateful to my colleagues Rep. Jacobs, Rep. Axne, and Rep. Torres for joining me to make access to Kindergarten a reality for all American families.”

“Investing in our kids is the best return on investment we can make – and we know that early childhood education means healthier, happier kids in the long-run. That’s why I’m excited to join Congressman Gallego in introducing the Universal Full-Day Kindergarten Act,” said Rep. Jacobs. “This pandemic has exposed the deep inequities in our society, and as we work to rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis, access to universal full-day kindergarten will be critical. I’m proud to be fighting to make universal full-day kindergarten a reality.”

“Countless studies have shown that early childhood education is critical to setting the foundations for a lifetime of academic and professional success. The conversation around early childhood education has typically focused on the benefits of preschool. Yet, those benefits can only be sustained if children also receive high-quality, free full-day kindergarten,” said Rep. Torres. “Across the country we have seen school districts move from half-day to full-day kindergarten to better academic outcomes for our young children and ease the financial burden of childcare off parents who work full-time. I am grateful to Rep. Ruben Gallego for spearheading this important piece of legislation and to Reps. Jacobs and Axne for leading with us.”

“When my oldest son was getting ready to start kindergarten, I discovered that access to full-day kindergarten in West Des Moines was determined by a lottery – leaving some kids behind despite overwhelming evidence of the value of a full kindergarten education. As a mother, that wasn’t something I could accept – and I pushed the school district to change that, successfully securing all-day instruction for the entire district,” said Rep. Axne. “Now, I’m joining my colleagues to push for that fix nationwide – because I’ve seen firsthand the benefits that our kids get from that change, and want to see it offered to the forty percent of students that don’t currently have that full-day option. With my own family’s experience, I will be pushing to advance this bill by telling my story, and the story of the Iowa students that I’ve fought to help.”’

“To prepare our next generation post-pandemic, we must make sure every child has access to early learning,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “As part of our return, recovery and reimagining, we must start with our earliest learners, setting strong foundations and building nurturing relationships to serve as the foundation for success in the later years. Now more than ever, our youngest students will benefit from early access to socialization, play, and instruction to help guide their social and emotional development. I want to thank Rep. Gallego for his leadership on making sure the first entry point into schooling is available for all.”

This bill is also endorsed by the National Education Association, Arizona Head Start Association, and Save Our Schools Arizona.