Kentucky Capitol Empty Seats

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) — The Kentucky General Assembly sent legislation to Gov. Andy Beshear's desk Tuesday that includes $140 million for full-day kindergarten in the upcoming fiscal year.

House Bill 382 passed on a 36-1 vote in the Senate shortly after several funding provisions were added by the upper chamber's budget committee. House later, the measure passed the House on a 90-3 vote.

The legislation only covers fiscal year 2022 for full-day kindergarten, which was at one point included in a school choice measure that became law Monday after lawmakers overrode Beshear's veto. The state currently pays for half-day kindergarten, and districts cover remaining costs if they want to offer full-day classes.

That measure, House Bill 563, created education opportunity accounts in Kentucky and a $25 million pool of tax credits to help jumpstart fundraising for groups that will dole out money for school-related expenses like tutoring and therapies.

Those who qualify and live in counties with more than 90,000 residents can also use education opportunity accounts for tuition to private schools, which has drawn fierce opposition from Beshear and public education groups like the Kentucky Education Association.

HB 382 also includes Beshear's proposal to use $575 million in federal pandemic aid to repay a federal loan that kept the state’s unemployment insurance program afloat. The program faced an unprecedented surge in jobless claims last year due to COVID-19.

The bill adds another $50 million in federal money for broadband expansion. Lawmakers already have allocated $250 million of federal aid to extend broadband service to underserved areas.

State government in Kentucky is expected to eventually receive about $2.4 billion in federal pandemic aid. The governor and legislative leaders have been trying to hash out a plan to spend at least portions of the federal aid before the session ends.

Tuesday is the final day of the 2021 legislative session.

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