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Who Will Pay for Full-Day K?

Do you pay to send your child to public school kindergarten? Some parents who want full-day kindergarten programs do. Parents in Seattle may be next.

The Seattle (Washington) School District is planning to hold public forums in November to discuss expansion of the district's full-day kindergarten program. A new proposal to charge parents whose children attend the program is being considered by the school board.

Many schools in the district now offer both full-day and half-day kindergartens. The full-day program is popular and demand for it is high. But not all students whose parents choose the program can be accommodated as the program now stands. If Seattle does move to charge parents for all-day kindergarten, it will join other districts in the area that are already charging. The present proposal would provide "scholarships" to children from low-income families. Other parents would pay.

Asking parents to pay for full-day kindergarten is occurring in other parts of the country as well. Parents whose children attend full-day programs in Milford, Massachusetts, also pay.


Over the past 15 years, many school districts have implemented whole-day or extended-day kindergarten programs that replace or run parallel to traditional half-day programs. The implementation of full-day kindergarten in districts where half-day sessions were traditional has often been controversial but, once started, the full-day sessions have been popular.

But why the change to full-day K?

More young children than ever before are entering kindergarten with prior experience in group situations (nursery school, day care center, or day care homes, etc.). In some states, kindergarten entry ages have been raised, so children are older when they enter school. And teachers know that developmentally appropriate education for young children requires time and space for children to explore, create, and construct their own knowledge.

Beyond those considerations, many parents want full-day kindergarten!


Successful full-day kindergarten programs follow intensive planning, teacher and parent education, and careful consideration of the costs involved. Increased staffing is often necessary. Space and materials are needed. And transportation costs could change.

As a result of planning, some school systems have instituted extended-day (more than half-day, less than full) programs instead of the full day. Kindergartens exist today in many variations.

  • Children attend kindergarten all day, five days a week.
  • Kindergarten children attend school all day every other day and on alternate Fridays.
  • Kindergartners begin their year with a half-day session and move to a full day in steps over the school year.
  • Some kindergartens operate a staggered-day program. (One format involves a teacher meeting with one group of kindergartners at the beginning of the morning; a second group would arrive at school later to join the first group for the middle part of the day; and then the first group goes home while the teacher meets with the second group.)
  • Children attend school every but have different teachers in the morning and afternoon.
  • Schools offer parents the option of full- or half-day kindergarten classes for their children.


State support for kindergarten varies. The state of New York encourages local districts to develop full-day kindergarten programs by funding full-day kindergartens at increased levels. The New York State Department of Education reports that 451 districts have full-day kindergarten while 179 offer half-day programs. Fifty-six districts offer parents a choice.

Some parents in West Hartford, Connecticut are currently asking for the expansion of full-day kindergarten program in their city. Full-day programs are currently located in schools where a high percentage of children qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. The parents are requesting full-day kindergartens in all schools.

Whether Seattle extends their full-day kindergarten program and begins charging parents or not, the expansion of programs for kindergartners will continue to arouse interest and controversy. I would enjoy hearing about full day kindergarten in your district and how it is funded. You can write to me at [email protected]

Related Sites

  • The Great, Frantic, Kindergarten Chase (Seattle Times; March 10, 1997.) Reporter Carey Quan Gelernter shares her adventure in finding a school for her 5-year-old. "Wherever my son ends up in kindergarten this year, I have had one wild and illuminating ride on my way to the decision"
  • Kindergarten All Day? (Seattle Times, March 3, 1997.) It's harder to take field trips, work on ambitious art projects or learn the names and sounds of letters when the school day lasts less than three hours. That's what kindergarten teachers say about half-day kindergarten. And that's why the Bellevue (Washington) School District may expand its all-day-kindergarten program to all of its elementary schools, then give its neediest families a tuition break.
  • Full-day Kindergarten Programs From a May 1995 ERIC Digest: Changes in American society and education over the last 20 years have contributed to the popularity of all-day (every day) kindergarten programs in many communities. Research also suggests that many children benefit academically and socially during the primary years from participation in full-day, compared to half-day, kindergarten programs.
  • Full vs. Half-day Kindergarten From The SchoolHouse Web site, a discussion of full vs. half-day K.

Article by Anne Guignon
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World