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Hearn and DaSilva Pitch Full-Day Kindergarten Bill

The East Providence representatives are backing a bill that would provide full-day kindergarten funding for up to four districts.

Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence) hopes to help close Rhode Island’s achievement gap in early education by backing a bill that would provide full-day kindergarten funds for four Rhode Island school districts, according to a press release from her office.

The legislation would allow the commissioner of elementary and secondary education to determine which districts would receive the funds. The state education department would then report on the progress of the program by May 1 of each following year, reads the release.

“A quality, full-day kindergarten program reaps benefits for all students,” Representative Hearn said. “We need Rhode Island’s students to be prepared to meet the expectations of an education that grows more rigorous and challenging with each day.”

, a children’s policy and advocacy nonprofit, supports the idea that full-day kindergarten can contribute to closing academic achievement gaps between lower and higher income children. A full day program could help better prepare students for the first grade, regardless of family income, parental education and school characteristics.

“I have always been an advocate for a complete, well-rounded early education for the children of Rhode Island,” said Rep. Roberto DaSilva (D-Dist. 63, East Providence, Pawtucket), who co-sponsored the bill. “This will give four school districts the capital they need to offer the programs our children deserve in a time when they are making some tough financial choices.”

This legislation (2012-H 8049) would ultimately offer more access to full-day funding to be distributed on a competitive basis. In order to be eligible, the school district must be a public school district, which as of Sept. 1, 2011 operates a half-day kindergarten program. The program must serve more than half of the kindergarten students in the district.

Funding for the approved districts would begin with the 2013-2014 school year. The funding would offset a portion of the reasonable one-time, startup costs, including but not limited to desks, books, facility upgrades and any other necessary expenses associated with each school’s implementation of a full-day kindergarten program. The schools chosen for the program must continue to operate for five years.

The bill has been referred to the House Finance Committee. It is co-sponsored by House Speaker Gordon D. Fox (D-Dist. 4, Providence), and Representatives DaSilva, Frank G. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) and Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).

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