Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed a bill requiring public school districts in the state to establish full-day kindergarten by the 2027-28 school year.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the bill also mandates that every district must establish a half-day program that is developmentally appropriate and provides opportunities for play-based learning.
“Full-day kindergarten is an essential step towards getting young Illinoisans off to the best possible start in their education, which has long-lasting positive effects on reading, math and social skills,” Pritzker said.
Democratic state Rep. Mary Beth Canty of Arlington Heights said parents who live in districts without the option of full-day kindergarten often face both social and economic barriers, particularly if all adult family members work outside the home.
“The cost of child care is really prohibitive when you only have a half-day program and the hours can be really wonky for working families,” Canty said.
A Full Day Kindergarten Task Force will conduct a statewide audit to inform the planning and execution of programs across each school district, including capital costs. Canty says the task force will first study the current state of full-day kindergarten in Illinois, including the capacity of each school district to provide full-day schooling.
The task force will work with the Illinois State Board of Education to identify the handful of districts that don’t offer full-day kindergarten.
Because children in Illinois are not required to attend school until age 6, parents can opt out of kindergarten altogether. But there is an overwhelming demand for full-day kindergarten in the districts that do offer it, Canty said.