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Full-Day Kindergarten Offered to More Students in Wash. State

Howard County Library System

More public school students in Washington state will be attending full-day kindergarten when the school year begins in a few weeks. State lawmakers approved the $50 million in extra funding during the last legislative session.

Kristen Jauden, a spokeswoman for the state office of public instruction, says the money is going to schools with high populations of low-income students.

"Children who are in areas of higher poverty don't have the same access to high quality early childhood experiences. It's been shown that a high quality kindergarten program can close that achievement gap," Jauden said.

Not all of the schools that were offered this new money were able to take it. The Mukilteo School District had to turn down the funding for five of its elementary schools due to a lack of classroom space. 

More than half of the public elementary schools in the state still don't have the money for a full day of learning for their youngest students. Many of these schools will fill in the gaps through levies, fundraising and charging families more than $2,000 in tuition. 

Research shows that more quality time in the classroom at an early age can lead to better outcomes in reading and math as students get older. 

Ten states and the District of Columbia pay for a full day of school for kindergartners. State lawmakers here in Washington say they hope to reach that goal in about four years. 

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.