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Kindergarten: A mandate we must support

Kindergarten teacher reading to children in libraryAs school superintendents we would never propose eliminating fifth grade to save money. Yet such a far-fetched policy would hold much more water than short-changing those students representing the greatest return for our education dollar: kindergartners.

Working with the Arizona School Administrators Association, representing over 230 public school superintendents, state Sen. Jeff Dial and state Rep. Brenda Barton are proposing their “Additional Classroom Time for Kindergartners” legislation which, once law, will require every public school offering kindergarten to provide a full day, no-cost option for all parents. This legislation supports Governor Doug Ducey’s commitment that, “any new funding for public schools must go directly into the classroom, identifying what works and focusing on English literacy for all students in this state.” We support Governor’s Ducey’s goal and this proposed legislation.

Senator Dial and Representative Barton have said “additional classroom time for kindergartners must be the responsibility of every school and an option for every parent.” This commitment enables kindergartners to build strong academic foundations, develop effective social skills, and learn the fundamentals of English and basic math, regardless of geography or income level.

This legislation creates a permanent mandate without a funding mechanism. As educators with nearly two centuries of combined experience, it’s a mandate our state must support. Arizona’s commitment to our youngest students cannot ebb and flow with state revenue. Additional classroom time must be the responsibility of every school and an option for every parent.
Without this commitment we are not prioritizing correctly.

While each of our school districts has a myriad of needs ranging from aging school buses and outdated textbooks to ever-growing student-teacher ratios and aspirations around STEM education, our number one priority must always be educating kids and positioning our students for future success. There is no better place to invest our scarce educational dollars than by providing every student, during their first year of school, with a full day, no-cost kindergarten experience.

An exemplary school system must be a part of our state’s base offering for attracting and retaining high-quality jobs for Arizonans. From supporting Arizona’s small businesses and reducing business personal property taxes to attracting new base industries through the creation of the Arizona Commerce Authority, our legislature has demonstrated a firm commitment to economic development. Yet, when every public school tour begins by explaining how Arizona does not require a full day of kindergarten class time, our lack of commitment to Arizona’s workforce-of-the-future becomes self-evident.

By requiring every public school in the state to provide additional classroom time for kindergartners, we increase the probability of every Arizona school becoming a high-performing school by providing every Arizona student with the opportunity to become a high-performing student.

As public school superintendents across the state we urge our elected leadership to affirm our state’s commitment to uniform access to additional classroom time for all of Arizona’s youngest students. It’s a fundamental mandate that we wholeheartedly support and that will have a tremendously positive and permanent impact on the future of our state. Together we can guarantee that all of our children receive the opportunities they deserve for their futures and the future of Arizona.

The Arizona School Administrators Association (ASA), representing over 230 public school district superintendents across Arizona, is a member of the ACT for Kindergartners Coalition; along with Phil Francis, retired CEO of PetSmart and former chair of Greater Phoenix Leadership; Brendan Walsh, executive director of Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy; and John Whiteman, retired CEO of Empire Southwest Caterpillar. Working with state Representative Brenda Barton and State Senator Jeff Dial, as well as Phoenix attorney Rodney Glassman, they are working to drive the “Additional Classroom Time for Kindergartners” legislation.

– Debbie Burdick is superintendent of the Cave Creek Unified School District; Quinn Kellis is superintendent of the Madison Elementary School District; Gail Pletnick is superintendent of the Dysart Unified School District; H.T. Sanchez is superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District; and Jeff Smith is superintendent of the Balsz Elementary School District.


  1. Michael S. Ellegood, PE

    You are right on. Both Pre-school and all day Kindergarten have proven to be real kick starters for our children education. Most of the high performing countries do this. So in terms of improving our education, this is right on target. To add to this, Education Week just published their report card on the States, once again we are at the bottom, 46th. Part of the solution is extended Kindergarten along with Pre-school. As the author points out – how do we fund this? With the budget shortfall + the dollars already owed public education I doubt that the legislature will fund anything like this. First we need to get out of being last among the states on school funding. Then we have get off this privatization kick.

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