Utah House passes bill to expand enhanced kindergarten

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A bill that would expand opportunities for enhanced kindergarten early intervention programs passed the Utah House of Representatives.

The latest version of the bill passed Wednesday would provide additional resources to expand the reach of the program, The Deseret News reported.

The bill is intended to help bring struggling students to grade-level proficiency and above as they enter first grade.

The program is optional to parents, school districts and charter schools. Participating districts and schools must apply for grant funding.

The $18.6 million cost of the bill reflects expansion and replacement of federal funds.

Data from schools that use the program show “significant improvement in children who start kindergarten and who have been assessed and who are behind their peers,” said Republican Rep. Lowry Snow, who sponsored the legislation.

Research by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found students who read on grade level when they complete third grade are more likely to graduate and become economically successful, Snow said.

Those who reach that benchmark are less likely to require special education services, become involved in the criminal justice system as juveniles or adults and are 50% less likely to become a teen parent, Snow said.

About 40% of Utah students entering kindergarten need intervention, Snow said.

Republican Rep. Stephen Christiansen questioned providing a separate funding stream for optional enhanced kindergarten instead of placing the funding in the weighted pupil unit, the basic building block of education funding appropriated by state lawmakers.

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