Utah lawmakers anticipated a debate over funding for day care centers

It remains to be seen whether the issue will gain in importance for the legislature.

(Tim Vandenack | Standard Examiner) Tina Olter, a Kindergarten teacher at Heritage Elementary School in Ogden, works with her students on Tuesday 31st January 2023.

ogden • Ask Amy Meunier, a kindergarten teacher at Heritage Elementary School in Ogden, if all-day kindergarten outweighs the advantages of part-day kindergarten, and you’ll have no hesitation.

“It’s super worth it,” she said.

She previously taught part-day courses but now teaches a full-day course at Heritage and says the extra time allows her to do more with students and give them personal attention. Part-time kindergarten—the norm in most of Utah—had her crawling around to get to all the stuff she wanted to cover. “It’s so hard to fit everything in one day,” she said.

School vouchers are undoubtedly a hot topic, drawing a lot of attention following the passage of House Bill 215. The measure, signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox last Saturday, increases teachers’ salaries and, to the chagrin of critics, creates a voucher scheme that allows parents to use public money to help pay for their children’s private schooling.

But it’s not the only education topic likely to be discussed during the 2023 legislature. The fight for state money to fund daycare centers across the state — Utah lags far behind the nation as a whole — has been an ongoing issue and will likely surface during the session, as it did last year. Whether the issue gains traction with lawmakers remains to be seen, but its many supporters say it’s time lawmakers allocate more funding for a broader expansion of all-day kindergarten (FDK).

“I think there’s a good chance that some of the funding will go towards expanding the optional FDK,” said Anna Thomas, senior policy analyst at Voices for Utah Children, a nonprofit children’s advocacy group that is calling for more money for the expansion of the kindergarten offer. The Utah State Board of Education, she said, estimates that $51.4 million a year is needed to allow for the expansion of all-day kindergarten to all Utah schools.

To learn more, visit Standard.net.

This article is published by the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of Utah news organizations dedicated to educating readers across the state.

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2023/02/02/utah-lawmakers-expected-debate/ Utah lawmakers anticipated a debate over funding for day care centers

Justin Scacco

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