By Erica Meltzer, Chalkbeat Colorado
Large Colorado school districts that collectively serve thousands of children in half-day kindergarten programs are preparing to switch to full-day programs this fall, potentially pushing up the cost of Gov. Jared Polis’ signature education initiative.
Lawmakers have set aside $185 million — about 80 percent of what Polis requested — to pay for full-day kindergarten next year. Their logic in not paying for all of it: That not all districts will immediately make the jump and that not all parents will enroll their children in full-day since there is no mandate.
But a number of districts — including Boulder Valley, Cherry Creek, and Douglas County in the Denver metro area, and Grand Junction-based District 51 — are pushing to make the jump next fall, concerned about the academic and financial ramifications if they don’t.
“With free full-day kindergarten across the state, nobody wants to lose enrollment,” said Ted Knight, assistant superintendent for the Douglas County School District, where 1,600 students, a little more than a third of all kindergartners, are in half-day programs this year.
Some lawmakers were already concerned about the long-term sustainability of Polis’ plan, which depends on local property tax revenue remaining high. The eagerness of districts to move to full-day kindergarten speaks to the importance of ensuring a good start for young learners even as it raises questions about Colorado’s ability to pay for it.
This reporting is made possible by our members. You can directly support independent watchdog journalism in Colorado for as little as $5 a month. Start here: coloradosun.com/join
More from The Colorado Sun
- Opponents of Colorado’s new oil and gas regulation law won’t try to repeal it — at least not this year
- Voters, for the first time, could get final say in the war over wolves in Colorado
- Colorado jails can’t hold people accused of low-level crimes in lieu of bail anymore. And that means current inmates could be released.
- Construction workers exploited by Colorado’s underground economy want to add bite to wage theft law
- Colorado is overhauling climate goals with an eye on scrubbing carbon from its electricity