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Kentucky becomes 13th state to fully fund full-day kindergarten

The full-day kindergarten funding plan will likely free up millions in additional dollars for local school districts to spend in other ways.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky lawmakers granted a long-time budget wish as Gov. Andy Beshear signed a bill that provides funding for full-day kindergarten Wednesday. The legislation will likely free up millions of local education dollars, having an impact beyond just one grade level.

Currently, Kentucky only pays half of the cost of full-day kindergarten at public schools. Districts make up the rest by taking money from other programs or charging families fees. That will change at the start of next school year. 

House Bill 382 passed with wide margins, providing $140M for full-day kindergarten. There have been efforts secure the funding for decades. Now, Kentucky becomes the 13th US state to provide the funding.

"Without a doubt, this is going to be a big boost to our schools and school districts," said Dr. Jim Flynn, Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.

Flynn said it will not be just for obvious reasons, explaining that the funding allows districts who have been footing bill to do other things with their money.

A spokesman for JCPS said HB 382 frees up $9.4 million per year that they spend funding the program now.

Whether it is moving money to Pre-K, transportation or something else, Flynn said it will be impactful because local leaders will decide how to spend it.

"They can make those decisions on how to best deploy those resources based on the contextual needs of the local district," Flynn said.

But the funding plan is only for one year, meaning that lawmakers must pass another two year budget when they return to the Capitol in January.

Senate President Robert Stivers agrees with Flynn, saying it is a change likely to stick around.

"Any time you start a program, and you're right, you plant seeds and it grows roots," Stivers said. "So the reality is, it's probably there unless something else supplants it or removes it."

Flynn said it seems difficult to back away from such a "sincere commitment" moving forward, saying it will be on their best bets in the future.

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