What Parents Need to Know About the New Full-Day Kindergarten Law in Illinois

By 2027, all Illinois school districts must offer full-day kindergarten. Learn how this new law will affect your child’s education.

On May 19, a new law passed requiring that every school district in Illinois offer a full-day kindergarten program by the 2027-2028 academic year. 

Bill HB2396 requires school districts to offer a full-day kindergarten curriculum for students ages 4-6 years old. Prior to the new law, school districts were only required to offer a half-day program. 

The law also requires that a task force be created by 2024 to help inform, plan and implement full-day kindergarten across the state. The task force will also be responsible for working with under-funded districts that may have more difficulty transitioning to a full-day program. 

Currently, the law allows school districts a two-year grace period that extends past the 2027-2028 academic year if they are either funded below 76 percent of the state’s funding formula or if they are in the top 25 percent of districts that need more capital funding. 

Curious to know more about the full-day kindergarten law and how it may affect your child’s education? Read on to find out the information that all parents of early learners should know. 

What is the law changing? 

Previously, Illinois school districts were required to offer a half-day kindergarten program. Now, every school district in the state must offer at least a full-day kindergarten program by the 2027-2028 school year. 

Only 150 of Illinois’ 852 school districts do not already have a full-day program. Schools with an existing full-day kindergarten will not be affected, and they can still offer a half-day option if they choose to. 

By 2024, a task force will be created to research the best practices for implementing full-day kindergarten in Illinois. The task force will inform and assist school districts as they make the transition. 

Why are full-day kindergarten programs important?

A study by the National Education Association found that both teachers and parents prefer full-day kindergarten and, though it does cost more than half-day alternatives, it’s worth the investment. 

The study found that full-day kindergarten boosts students’ academic achievement and strengthens their social and emotional skills. Students are given more time to fully develop interests and hobbies, and advanced students have more time to complete long-term projects.

With more time in the school day, teachers have more opportunities to get to know their students and individualize their teaching, which results in full-day students having stronger reading and math skills than students in half-day programs. 

Additionally, children with developmental delays have more opportunities for early intervention when they spend more time with their educators and caregivers. 

The benefits of full-day kindergarten go beyond the classroom, too. 

In Illinois, children are not required to go to school until age 6. Working parents who cannot afford early education or child care must stay home to care for their kids. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, even more parents have left the workforce to care for their young children.

Having a public option for full-day education and child care for children as young as 4 would allow many parents to return to work, which benefits working families and the economy. 

Full-day kindergartners also have more stability, since they do not have to be shuttled from a half day of school to a childcare service and back home again. 

Are there any downsides to full-day kindergarten? 

Critics of the new law say that it will be expensive for already underfunded districts to implement a full-day program, which requires more staff to work longer hours and additional space to hold classes. 

Using a set of criteria that will be determined by the new task force, the State Board of Education will permit underperforming or under-funded schools to waive the full-day transition by two years. 

Will my student be affected? 

School districts have until the 2027-2028 school year to implement a full-day program, so if your child is currently enrolled in kindergarten, their current curriculum will not be affected. 

As a result of this bill, some school districts will be offering a full-day option as early as next fall. If your child’s school only has a half-day program, you may be seeing a transition to full-day sooner than anticipated.

If you will have a kindergarten-aged student when the 2027-2028 school year rolls around, full-day kindergarten may not be your only option. School districts can still offer a half-day program in addition to a full-day kindergarten curriculum.

Early learning resources for families

Looking for ways to help your little one grow and learn outside of school? These city, state and national resources are a great place to start. Find educational tools to use at home, and get connected to organizations that offer guidance, resources and more.


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Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts is the assistant editor on the Chicago Parent team. She is always on the lookout for the coolest and trendiest new attractions, restaurants and events for Chicagoland families. Her newsletters, online family guides and exciting digital content keep families informed on all the latest happenings around town.

1 COMMENT

  1. As an educator in the Archdiocese of Chicago for over 30 years, and who was among many of the teachers who implemented the All Day Kindergarten beginning in 1993. I have a problem with this article. The article makes it seem that this is a new thing. Yes, the mandating of it is new however there have been many schools offering it for years with great success scores. I firmly believe and have seen scores that show children are better prepared for the higher grades because of All Day Kindergarten.

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