Harrison: Full-day kindergarten should be available to all Colorado kids (column) | VailDaily.com

Harrison: Full-day kindergarten should be available to all Colorado kids (column)

Dana Harrison
Valley Voices
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis talks to Avon Elementary School kindergarteners during a visit.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaild

Earlier this month, we were honored to have Gov. Jared Polis visit Avon Elementary and pitch his plan for access to free, full-day kindergarten for every Colorado child.

As the principal at Avon Elementary, I see the difference that full-day kindergarten makes in the lives of our kids every single day, and I’m glad that the new governor is making this a top priority in his new administration.

The research backs up what we witness in our own school. Children who attend kindergarten for a full day had stronger academic outcomes the following year, more self-confidence and were better at getting along with others than children who only attended half-day kindergarten or had no kindergarten instruction at all.

Right now, Avon, like many communities, provides half-day kindergarten, but we don’t have room in the budget to provide our kids with full-day kindergarten. That leaves Avon parents with three choices: paying $270 per month out-of-pocket for tuition, finding child care, which can often be even more expensive or reducing hours at work, meaning that parents lose out on pay and productivity.

Thankfully, Colorado’s growing tax base and positive economic outlook have enabled the state to consider picking up the cost for full-day kindergarten for every Colorado student, while also putting away money to continue to fund full-day kindergarten in case the state experiences an economic downturn in the future.

The state’s investment will save parents money and allow them to return to the workforce more quickly, which will not only help families but also boost our local economy as a whole. Families in Eagle County with students entering kindergarten could be looking at a savings of up to $2,430 per year.

With the state paying for full-day kindergarten, it will also open up slots for early childhood education (preschool) programs across the states — programs that also deliver positive benefits for our kids.

Providing every child in Colorado with access to free, full-day kindergarten is essential for closing the achievement gap and producing educational equity, and it will also allow for better instruction in first grade, second grade and beyond.

As Gov. Polis said in his state of the state address: “This is not a mandate for school districts or parents, but will be a great opportunity for parents who believe it is the best option for their children and districts who want to offer this option to families.”

Full-day kindergarten should be available to all Colorado kids — not just to parents and districts who can afford it. Lawmakers have an opportunity to ensure a brighter future for all of our kids here in Colorado. On behalf of our parents, our school, our district and our students, I urge them to take it.

Dana Harrison is the principal of Avon Elementary School.