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Utah Coalition Celebrates Passage of Full-Day Kindergarten Option

The new optional full-day kindergarten offering gives families more choices than ever.

On May 3, members of the Utah Full Day Kindergarten coalition and their allies celebrated the ceremonial signing of HB477 Full-Day Kindergarten Amendments. “This groundbreaking bill gives Utah families the freedom to choose the kindergarten education that best fits their children,” says Elizabeth Garbe, Vice President of Public Policy at United Way of Salt Lake, one of the early advocacy organizations to for push for extended-day kindergarten in Utah. “This is a momentous occasion years in the making.” 

The bill provides greater access to optional full-day kindergarten across the state, by funding optional full-day kindergarten (FDK) the same way grades 1 through 12 are funded. 

The new legislation did not happen by chance.

Sixteen years of hard work from educators, parents, policy experts and advocates made this systems-level change possible. In 2007, United Way of Salt Lake helped pass SB49 Optional Extended-Day Kindergarten. The legislation laid the first brick of the foundation for full-day kindergarten FDK expansion in Utah. In the years that followed, the organization became increasingly relentless in full-day kindergarten advocacy efforts. After 14 years of pushing for change, United Way of Salt Lake—along with advocacy partners at Voices for Utah Children—decided to boldly advocate for full-day-kindergarten expansion, rather than incremental increases or piecemeal funding grants.   

With this objective in mind, the Utah Full-Day Kindergarten Now! Coalition was born. UWSL and Voices for Utah Children, along with experts at the Utah School Board of Education and Utah PTA, convened local education leaders, parents, educators, and champions in the public and private sectors to more effectively advocate for FDK. The coalition of more than 50 organizations allowed FDK advocates to share the work of developing communications, collecting data, lobbying policy makers, and aligning activities. 

The first bill to provide FDK for every student who wanted it ran during the 2022 general legislative session. HB193 Full-Day Kindergarten aimed to expand optional FDK to all Utah elementary schools over three years. Unfortunately, the final bill that passed was not the one we wanted, though it did provide a $12.2 million increase in funding for the FDK grants.  

Undeterred, the coalition went back this year and successfully passed HB477. Each week they hosted “Days on the Hill,” where parents and their children joined us advocates to talk with their legislators about the importance of having a choice of a FDK option. Op-eds and letters to the editor were sent into local newspapers. Teachers and local school administrators also shared how FDK has positively impacted students and schools.  

It means working families who previously only had half-day options can choose to send their child to FDK. It eliminates expensive decisions for families, like paying for additional childcare or deciding if one parent must change or leave their job or education path. It means that refugee or immigrant children learning English will have a better chance of starting first grade proficient in their second language because they will have adequate time in the classroom.  

The impact of FDK expansion is already felt. Parents have begun receiving letters from their principals letting them know FDK will be an option for them. Although some districts will take longer to expand, the funding is there for them when they are ready. Soon the entire state of Utah will have access to the option they want for their child. 

“This is a systemic change that will positively impact generations of families and kids,” says Lia Baez, Policy Director for United Way of Salt Lake. “And it could not have happened without the parents, educators, and community advocates who told their stories and helped make this win a reality.” 


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