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Rep. Gallego Introduces First-Ever Bill to Increase Access to Full-Day Kindergarten

March 28, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-07) introduced the Universal Full-Day Kindergarten Act of 2019, the first-ever bill introduced in the House of Representatives that takes steps toward universal access to full-day Kindergarten. Arizona Democratic Reps. Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02) and Greg Stanton (AZ-09) joined the legislation as original cosponsors.

Although studies show that enrollment in full-day Kindergarten improves children’s short- and long-term academic outcomes, especially for low-income and minority students, an estimated 40 percent of Kindergarten-age students don’t have access to such programs. In Arizona, the state only funds 2.5 hours of Kindergarten per day in most school districts.

The Universal Full-Day Kindergarten Act would create a competitive grant program aimed at expanding access to full-day Kindergarten for families across the country. States, local education agencies, and tribal schools would be eligible to apply for 4-to-1 matching funds to carry out high-quality, full-day Kindergarten programs taught by qualified teachers.

“All students, no matter where they’re from, deserve access to the K-12 public education programs they need to thrive,” said Rep. Gallego. “We cannot continue to force schools to choose between addressing infrastructure needs, hiring qualified teachers, or offering full-day Kindergarten. As someone whose life was transformed by education, I’m proud to introduce this bill to help improve access to full-day Kindergarten programs.”

Quotes from Endorsing Organizations:

Marc Egan, Government Relations Director, NEA: “The NEA wholeheartedly supports the ‘Universal Full-Day Kindergarten Act’ and applauds U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego for working to ensure that kindergarten-aged children have early-education experiences that spark their desire to learn, including opportunities for developing cognitive, physical, and behavioral skills and for understanding how to process and manage emotions. Representative Gallego’s bill is a crucial step in ensuring that all children, regardless of where they live, have the support they deserve in our nation’s schools.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten: “Building a better future starts with our earliest learners, making sure they have access to full-day programs that provide a strong foundation for early learning and for socialization. In too many states across this country, kindergarten funding is strung together with a patchwork of resources that creates a band aid approach for kids. Rep. Gallego’s ‘Universal Full-Day Kindergarten Act’ changes this by creating a steady sustainable funding stream that funds our future. It prioritizes early childhood education with supplementary funding so every kid can access school when they’re ready, and states don’t have to choose whether or not they can afford to offer families these critical programs.”

Arizona Education Association: “The Arizona Education Association is happy to see that Rep. Gallego is supporting students through this effort, and we fully endorse the Universal Full-Day Kindergarten Act. We are excited to see Universal FDK expand to more families while simultaneously providing a strong educational foundation that sets students up for success.”

Arizona PTA: “Arizona PTA believes that all-day kindergarten is vital to the success of all Arizona’s kids. We support Representative Gallego's bill to ensure all Arizona’s kids have access to all-day kindergarten. We encourage public education supporters to stand with us and Representative Gallego in passing this legislation.”

Save Our Schools Arizona: “Every Arizona student deserves a fully-funded public education from Day 1.”

Arizona Head Start Association: “With all the research pointing to the need to address children’s learning at the earliest age possible, Universal Kindergarten is a critical component. We applaud this legislative effort!”

The Arizona School Board Association also endorsed the bill.