Mini-Windows: All-Day Kindergarten for All

An interim series aimed at highlighting lesser known Majority Coalition Caucus-led budget accomplishments in the 2015 & 2016 sessions.

This fall, a year ahead of schedule, every kindergartner will be able to attend full-day kindergarten.

A. Voluntary all-day kindergarten will be offered in every school beginning this fall

In only a few months, a notable event will occur: every parent with a child entering kindergarten will have the option to enroll them in free full-day kindergarten.1 This will be the first time in Washington’s history that all-day kindergarten will be available throughout the state.

B. Dramatic change over the last few years

A few short years ago, the state essentially funded only half-day kindergarten statewide. This meant many districts didn’t offer full-day kindergarten or, those that did, charged families for the cost, resulting in disparate impacts of who could or would attend.


C. “Ahead of Schedule” – fully implemented one year early

The requirement to have full-day kindergarten offered throughout the state was the result of a change to the definition of basic education enacted in 2010 (HB 2776). The legislation required the state to fund full-day kindergarten statewide in the 2017-18 school year.2

Due to the Legislature’s investments this biennia, the requirement will be met one year earlier in the 2016-17 school year.

D. Significant Investment: more than $500 million a biennia put in to fund all-day kindergarten

Because this has been phased in over time, the overall taxpayer investment can get lost as budget investments are often discussed only on a biennia-to-biennia basis. Make no mistake, the shift to funding full-day kindergarten has been significant.

The cost to fund all-day kindergarten in the upcoming school year, compared to half-day kindergarten throughout the state, is just shy of $300 million for one year alone.3 Put another way, the policy of all-day kindergarten is well over a half-a-billion dollar investment per biennia in our youngest public school students, spent to ensure opportunity is available for all and their schooling gets off on the right foot.4

Bottom Line

This fall, for the first time in state history, all-day kindergarten will be available to all.


  1. Parents will have the option to enroll their children in full-day kindergarten, but it will be exactly that: an option. Half-day kindergarten will still be sufficient to move onto 1st grade.
  2. SHB 2776 (2010, sec. 4) http://lawfiles/biennium/2009-10/Pdf/Bills/Session%20Laws/House/2776-S.SL.pdf
  3. W&M staff analysis
  4. The opportunity afforded by all-day kindergarten is significant, but it is worth noting that the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, a nationally renowned research entity charged by the Legislature to look at cost-benefits of various investments, has looked at the studies on all-day kindergarten and concluded that the returns are questionable: their research showed only a 36% chance that the state will get a positive return on its investment. The reason?  While students emerge better academically from full-day kindergarten than those who attend only half-day, the benefits wear off by 3rd grade, such that the two groups are indistinguishable by that time.