BOISE, Idaho — Senate Bill 1315, which would provide optional full-day kindergarten to Idaho families was set to be heard by the Senate Education Committee on Monday, February 28th. Governor Brad Little requested that the education committees chair, Senator Steven Thayn, pull the bill for two days.
Senator Janie Ward-Engelking from District 18, has been pushing for a bill like this to pass for over nine years stating that the need is at an all-time high.
"Right now what we are seeing in Idaho, some students have it, at-risk students might have it in a large district, or some parents can pay for it, but it's not available for every single Idahoan and that's just wrong,” Ward- Engelking said.
According to Ward-Engelking, parents searching for affordable housing has posed a challenge, increasing the demand for full-day kindergarten.
"We have never had the opportunity to do so because it was tuition paid and that's something that was not feasible and looking back on those opportunities that were missed that would have been a great option," said Amy Rogalsky, a Boise mother of four.
Rogalsky has a son who is currently enrolled in preschool and will be in kindergarten in the fall. She urges that lawmakers make the right decision by passing SB 1315, saying that the need for extended early education is high.
"He's been attending preschool four days a week and he's excelled above and beyond everything. Just watching him grow and learn we realize that by sending him to half-day kindergarten he's not going to continue to grow," she said.
She added, she wanted her son to continue to be able to excel above and beyond in kindergarten.
Rogalsky hopes that lawmakers pass SB 1315. In the case that the bill does not pass, she says both her and her husband will have to work overtime to pay for her son to attend all-day kindergarten.
Ward-Engelking estimates the cost for optional full-day kindergarten will be around 46 million dollars, which she says is available.
"We can do better, the money is there the governor has provided literacy money plus an additional amount of money that would cover full-day optional kindergarten, plus we have ARPA money that is available,” Ward-Engelking said. "We have experienced a learning lag during the pandemic and we need to get these kids up to speed, the sooner we can do that the better for our workforce and the state of Idaho."
According to Senator Thayn, Education Committee chair, the governor plans to focus on a bill that changes the distribution of the state literacy fund before hearing SB1315. It has not been said when the bill will return to the senate education committee to be heard.
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