H.B. 447 Kindergarten Literacy Improvement Program by Taylorsville Republican Representative Johnny Anderson is a relative late-comer this session but seems to have momentum. The bill allows school districts use money for optional extended-day kindergarten to instead pay for a computer-based literacy program for kindergarten students. H.B. 447 was made public on Monday and passed out of the House Education Committee on Wednesday. It now moves to a vote of the full House. If it passes there, it will still need Senate approval. But if its course through that body is as swift as its introduction this week in the House, it easily could pass the Legislature by the end of the session next week.
Since this could impact optional extended-day kindergarten funding, here’s some information about the program from a recent report compiled by Utah State Office of Education staff:
Utah’s optional extended-day kindergarten is a comprehensive and proven program targeting at-risk students that addresses both academic and social development. About 18 percent of Utah’s kindergarteners participated in optional extended-day kindergarten last school year. That’s about 8,000 students, most of whom are low income, English language learners, students with disabilities or Hispanic. These students began the 2009-10 school year with significantly lower scores on their kindergarten assessments than the students not enrolled in the program. By the end of the year, they had closed the gap and actually scored above their peers who weren’t in the program.
Additionally, optional extended-day kindergarten offers students more instruction time than the program outlined in H.B. 447. Optional extended-day kindergarten currently provides 450 hours of instruction a year compared to 48 hours of instruction a year for the computer-based program.
Optional extended-day kindergarten also addresses the entire student with instruction that includes not only literacy but also other critical areas, like numeracy, language skills, motor skills, self-help skills and social-emotional skills that form a comprehensive foundation for future academic success.
While the Utah State Board of Education has not had a chance yet to discuss H.B. 447 specifically, the board voted before the legislative session to recommend the Legislature allocate $7.5 million in ongoing funds for optional extended-day kindergarten. The program is also a priority in Governor Gary Herbert’s budget proposal and a recommendation by his Education Excellence Commission.