Full-Day Kindergarten Bills Blocked in General Assembly

State legislators’ efforts to pressure Loudoun County to expand full-day kindergarten took a step backwards this week.

Two bills drafted by Loudoun lawmakers that would have paved the way for a full school day for every Virginia kindergartener were left in the state House of Delegates’ Subcommittee on Education Innovation on Tuesday.

McLean’s Del. Kathleen Murphy’s (D-34) House Bill 457 would have required that every newly constructed elementary school in Virginia have space for a full-day kindergarten program. House Bill 798 from John J. Bell (D-87), of Chantilly, would have required the three remaining school systems in the commonwealth that do not provide universal full-day kindergarten to develop a plan to do so.

Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason (R-32), of Ashburn, was the sole Republican on the subcommittee to support the legislation. He has said he wants Loudoun school leaders to draft and follow a plan to roll out universal full-day kindergarten.

In a prepared statement, Murphy said most House Republicans refuse to take a realistic look at what would be necessary to fund a full school day for every Virginia kindergartner.

“This is shortsighted and doesn’t serve the families in Loudoun. We clearly recognize the financial challenges involved and believe that is all the more reason to have a plan in place,” she stated.

The Loudoun County School Board has made some recent progress in its effort to reach more kindergartners with a longer school day. In the past year, it has expanded the percentage of kindergartners who attend a full day from 11 percent to 32 percent, or 1,536 students. On Tuesday, the board adopted a budget that earmarks funding to extend the full-day services to 75 percent of Loudoun kindergartners by this fall.

School leaders have said it would cost another $16.5 million just to hire enough teachers and purchase instructional materials to offer a full day to the 5,121 kindergartners expected to enroll this fall. That figure doesn’t include the price tag to get the county over its biggest hurdle—building the classroom space to accommodate full-day kindergarten countywide.