Is it a good idea to offer full-day kindergarten statewide in New Jersey?

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It could help curb day care costs for struggling parents and it could give kids the academic challenges they need to succeed later in life. In the Garden State, Assemblywoman Connie Wagner is sponsoring a bill that would create a task force to study and evaluate issues associated with implementing full-day kindergarten.

"This bill creates a task force to examine how we can implement full-day kindergarten and it's a bill that's long overdue," says Wagner. "There are approximately 108 districts in New Jersey which do not have full-time kindergarten and it is my belief that full-time kindergarten should be offered to every child no matter where they live."

The nature of kindergarten has changed according to Wagner. She points out that many kids have been exposed to prekindergarten and nursery school and have been attending school full-time for two years. Many then find out that their district only offers half-time kindergarten.

"Years ago, we did not have full-time kindergarten. It was our first exposure to school, where we learned how to count, where we learned our alphabet," explains Wagner. "Kindergarten is no longer a first time exposure. Our students have been exposed to education so, academically, this makes sense."

The concept makes financial sense too says Wagner. Parents are now paying anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 per child, in order to have their child enrolled in a full-time kindergarten program.

"We need to provide our families with financial relief," believes Wagner. "We need to make sure that our students are academically challenged and in full time kindergarten programs, children can have fun as well as learn."

Under the Assemblywoman's bill, the task force would be charged with studying issues including, but not limited to:

  • Review of existing research, studies, and data concerning full-day kindergarten, including studies that examine the long-term academic impact and the social and emotional impact of full-day kindergarten
  • Implementation issues associated with full-day kindergarten, including but not limited to, staffing needs, facility space, and class size.
  • Funding needed for full-day kindergarten, including sources of funding.
  • Curriculum comparisons between full-day kindergarten and half-day kindergarten
  • Opinions and recommendations of parents and elementary school teachers regarding full-day kindergarten.
  • The feasibility of offering full-day kindergarten in school districts statewide.

The legislation has already been unanimously approved by the Assembly Education Committee.