Colorado’s kindergarten landscape will even out, with benefits flowing to state’s wealthiest, poorest families |

Colorado’s kindergarten landscape will even out, with benefits flowing to state’s wealthiest, poorest families

Christopher Osher
The Colorado Sun
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis talks to Avon Elementary School kindergarteners during a visit.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaild

A decade ago, when Colorado officials surveyed school districts about then-Gov. Bill Ritter’s big idea to put full-day kindergarten in every school, support wasn’t unanimous.

School administrators in Telluride, one of the state’s wealthier resort towns, were dismissive of the full-day kindergarten priority from the governor back then, according to the survey conducted by the Colorado Department of Education.

“Universal funding for full-day kindergarten is a solid goal for improving achievement for all students,” the CDE survey shows Telluride officials argued back then. “However, given the realities of the funding constraints facing public education in Colorado, new funds would be better spent on literacy goals for primary grades.”

The early reservations expressed years ago by officials like those in Telluride still reverberate now that a new governor, Jared Polis, has succeeded in making free full-day K the centerpiece of his education agenda.

Was full-day K the best place to channel new money given all of the state’s daunting education needs? Budget writers in the legislature wrestled with that question this year after Polis asked them to make full-day K a top priority. Afterall, Colorado ranks 42nd in the nation in per pupil spending, $2,500 below the national average, according to one national survey. Rural school districts say they can’t pay a salary sufficient to attract teachers, and several districts have resorted to recruiting from the Philippines for hard-to-fill positions in math and science. About 45 percent of the state’s school districts are open only four days out of the week, with districts like Pueblo saying they moved away from the typical five-day school week partly due to funding woes.

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