Polis signs full-day kindergarten bill into law

Dozens of Stedman Elementary kindergarteners look on as Gov. Polis signs the full-day kindergarten bill into law. (Kati Weis/Chalkbeat)

Dozens of Stedman Elementary kindergarteners look on as Gov. Polis signs the full-day kindergarten bill into law. (Kati Weis/Chalkbeat)

chalkbeat

By Chalkbeat 

Fulfilling a key campaign promise, Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday signed into law a bill funding full-day kindergarten to much pomp  — complete with the North High School marching band — at a ceremony at Stedman Elementary in Denver.

“Whether it’s about allowing a second parent the flexibility to return to work sooner, or whether it’s about making sure we truly invest in our kids and our future in every family of Colorado, this ceremony today represents the end result of an enormous amount of hard work from our legislators, early childhood advocates, educators (and) community members,” Polis said.

State Rep. Jim Wilson, a Salida Republican and former school superintendent who co-sponsored the bill, also praised the legislation that passed with bipartisan support.

The new law bans public schools from charging tuition for full days and makes full-day kindergarten free to all parents in public schools. Many districts offered full-day kindergarten, but some charged tuition, while others subsidized the cost from other programs.

However, kindergarten remains optional for families in Colorado.

Asia Zanders, of Colorado Springs, welcomed the new law.

“My 7-year-old struggled really hard right before kindergarten,” Zanders explained of her oldest son’s experience a few years ago. Then in kindergarten, she said, “one day he came home and just picked up a book and started reading, it was so amazing.”

Zanders said she hopes the bill will give all parents the opportunity to feel that same pride in their children she felt that day.

Colorado lawmakers allocated $175 million, about 80% of the funding Polis requested, for full-day kindergarten next year, reasoning some parents will not enroll their kids in the full-day programs and some districts will not transition to full-day programs right away, since the bill did not mandate them to do so.

However, many districts with large half-day programs, like Cherry Creek, Boulder Valley and District 51 in Mesa County, are planning to offer full-day programs this fall.

That’s something Zanders was happy to see. Her 4-year-old daughter is raring to start kindergarten.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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