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Idaho Senate approves full-day kindergarten legislation

March 11, 2022 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Lawmakers in the Idaho Senate on Thursday approved legislation to boost reading skills among young students with full-day kindergarten.

The Senate voted 31-2 to give school districts the option of full-day kindergarten by using $73 million in state literacy intervention money.

Republican Gov. Brad Little has made boosting reading scores among young students a priority, saying good reading skills make for life-long learners and gives students the best chance for a successful academic career and life.

The legislation removes any ambiguity that the money can be used for all-day kindergarten. Half of the money will be based on enrollment of students in kindergarten to third grade. The other half will be based on students improving their reading skills, with districts with higher-improving students getting more.

“I think this particular piece of legislation strikes a good balance between what we intend to invest in as a state and allowing our local school districts to decide what works for their communities and their kids,” said Republican Sen. Lori Den Hartog, noting school districts currently are offering a wide array of kindergarten options.

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A previous plan trying to send money to districts with struggling students ended up costing districts where students did well, she said.

Democrats in the Senate supported the legislation but had some reservations about school districts losing money when students didn’t do well on reading tests.

“My concern with that is, oftentimes, the kids that don’t make that growth, they need additional resources, not fewer resources,” said Democratic Sen. Janie Ward-Engleking.

Democratic Sen. David Nelson expressed similar concerns.

“I think this bill has a few warts on it, but I’m going to vote for it,” he said. “I do fear we will be back talking about the at-risk part of the funding on this.”

The legislation now goes to the House.