Jared Polis introduces plan for all-day kindergarten

Polis’ plan is estimated to cost $227 million. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor

Other officials express concerns about cost
Polis’ plan is estimated to cost $227 million.
Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor

Recently elected Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has unveiled his proposal for state-funded, full-day kindergarten in Colorado. The plan adds up to $227 million in order to fund numerous school districts’ kindergarten programs.

This was one of Polis’ chief concerns during his initial campaign for governor— calling it a “top priority”—among other proposals like affordable health care and renewable energy. The Colorado Children’s Campaign addressed this need as well, stating, “We know that when children walk into school on grade level, that they’re much more likely to be reading by the time they’re in third grade.”

As of December 2018, an extra $274 million was found in the 2019 state budget due to an economic flourish. Polis intends to spend 80 percent of this surplus on his new kindergarten plan, alleviating the stress of districts and parents to pay for a full day of kindergarten.

With the cost of a full day of kindergarten as much as $500 a month, its implementation by the state could alleviate the financial burden on many families and districts in Colorado.

CU Denver graduate student Blythe Scott, a parent of one child, recognizes that the plan “would be hugely helpful.”

“Childcare is expensive everywhere but especially here in Denver,” said Scott, who believes in the importance of a strong educational foundation early on. She plans on enrolling her child in full-day kindergarten if the proposal goes through.

Scott is not alone as a student considering childcare concerns. According to a 2017 study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 26 percent of undergraduate students have dependent children, a figure that totals to nearly 5 million American students.

However, many Democratic members of the legislature appear apprehensive of the plan, feeling that it doesn’t address other concerns for the state. In an interview with The Denver Post, Commerce City Sen. Dominick Moreno argued, “The governor’s budget doesn’t really touch on transportation” and that it needs to accommodate the growing Colorado population using the budget surplus. 

Arvada Sen. Rachel Zenzinger added that even if the plan is set in this year, it may be difficult to sustain it in coming years if the surplus lessened or disappeared. Zenzinger said to the Post, “If we fund it this year, then we need to make sure that we’re funding it in the other years, too.” Moreno agreed, adding that he wondered, “How we can do this in a sustainable way?”

Despite apprehension from some constituents, Polis appears to be largely optimistic about his plan and the effects it will have on the economy and education in the state. In a letter to the Joint Budget Committee, the governor wrote, “We can leverage our state’s improved economy to benefit our schools without sacrificing other budget priorities.”

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