Full-day Kindergarten Summary
Free full-day Kindergarten is a top priority of the governor and will most likely be approved by the 2019 General Assembly.
What we know
Governor Jared Polis ran for and was elected Governor of Colorado based on several campaign promises. One of those promises was the funding of full-day Kindergarten for all Colorado children. The Governor has made this the early focus of his work with the legislature.
In his budget letter to the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) – available here - the Governor pegged the cost of full-day Kindergarten (FDK) at $227 million. This cost will not come from current K-12 education sources; it will be funded through the combination of higher than projected property taxes and lower than forecasted growth in enrollment and inflation. In addition, the budget includes additional funding for implementation costs at $25.7 million to help with curriculum, supplies, and classroom space. School districts will not be required to offer FDK, and parents will not be required to enroll their children in FDK.
What we think will happen
Currently there is not a bill introduced on the subject. CASB anticipates the bill to be sponsored by Rep. Jim Wilson (R) and Rep. Barbara McLachlan (D), the current Chair of the House Education Committee. The bill would move the funding for Kindergarten students from .58 of standard per pupil funding to 1.0, or full funding.
If a district is currently offering FDK, it would receive the difference between the .58 and 1.0, or .42 additional funding.
If a district already offers FDK without charging fees to parents, this change would allow the school district to allocate the additional FDK funding amount it will receive to Kindergarten or other district costs.
If a district offers FDK through a fee-based system, it would no longer be able to charge this fee and would not see a net increase in funding to the extent the current fee is replaced with state funding.
If a district is not currently offering Kindergarten, it would receive full funding for any new Kindergarten students enrolled in full-day Kindergarten.
A rough estimate is that about 80% of Colorado school districts currently offer full-day Kindergarten. The 20% that do not offer full-day Kindergarten lack classroom space or face other local implementation issues. There are also some school districts that do not offer full-day Kindergarten but do however offer some form of fee-based “enrichment” for younger students.
What does it mean?
If the Governor is able to fund the $227 million for full-day Kindergarten and keep his pledge to include an approximate $77 million buy down on the negative factor, Colorado schools would receive about $300 million in new funding for the 2019-20 budget year. This total does not include the normal costs for growth and inflation as mandated under Amendment 23, which are expected to be between $250 and $300 million dollars. Combining these two amounts together means that K-12 could receive as much as $600 million for the 2019-20 budget year.
On balance this appears to be a very good proposal for the vast majority of CASB member Boards.
Benefits to free full-day Kindergarten:
Improves young children’s learning in both math and reading.
Instills self-confidence in young students and improves their ability to get along
Produces long-term educational gains for low-income and minority students,
helping to close the achievement gap.
Reduces the time parents/guardians spend transporting children between home, school and child care.
Gives teachers a better opportunity to identify and address children’s learning
Gives school districts more room in the budget for other educational priorities
Saves taxpayers money over the long term through increased parental
participation in the labor market and stronger academic outcomes for children.
The CASB Legislative/Resolutions Committee has taken a position of SUPPORT pending the introduction of the bill based on the factors described above.
ANSWERS TO COMMON QUESTIONS
How does offering full-day Kindergarten open up about 5,000 preschool slots across the state?
Providing state funding for full-day Kindergarten will make room to enroll an additional 5,136 at-risk children into preschool as it will free-up the slots that were used for Kindergartens and make those available to preschoolers. Because the estimate of at-risk children currently on waitlists or otherwise eligible is more than 8,000, the governor includes an additional $13 million to fund preschool for the additional 3,000 children, eliminating this gap. (source: Governor Polis letter to JBC and General Assembly)
What if a district does not have space to provide a full-day Kindergarten option?
The proposal does not mandate schools to provide full-day Kindergarten.