Full-day kindergarten sets young students up for success. We've all seen the studies: Full-day k contributes to higher reading & math achievement, higher confidence & better social skills, and earlier identification of learning challenges.
In the light of evidence that students benefit a remarkable amount from full-day kindergarten, why doesn't Colorado fully fund full-day k statewide?
The last time Colorado updated their school finance law was more than 20 years ago in 1994. The Public School Finance Act funds .58 of the day for Colorado's kindergarteners which comes out to only about half a day's worth of class time. This means that districts that want to offer a full-day program for their families must use money out of their own budgets, pass mill levy overrides, and/or charge tuition to cover the difference. If the state included full-day kindergarten in its budget, districts would see a large chunk of funds available for use towards other important expenses.
According to the Colorado Department of Education, 168 out of 178 districts statewide offer full-day kindergarten. Most of these districts have to charge tuition between $200-400 per month. In Denver Public Schools, during the 2017-2018 school year, the fee began at $400 per month with families paying based on a sliding scale. While many low-income families rightfully take advantage of subsidies to send their children to a full-day program, the reality is that a truly equitable school system sets up all of its students for success - something Colorado is currently failing to do.
When districts are left scrambling to make up the difference to fund full-day k, the programs that are offered vary quite significantly across the state. This variance contributes to greater inequities and larger opportunitiy gaps for our students. The Education Commission of the States released a report in 2016 that states, "Discrepancies in kindergarten funding and quality may leave many students less prepared to enter first grade than their peers who attended a quality full-day kindergarten program." Setting students up for success is difficult if they are starting behind their peers as early as first grade.
Stand for Children and our parent members are fighting for fully-funded full-day kindergarten in Colorado because we see this as an opportunity not just for higher academic achievement, but for increased educational equity as well.
Interested in joining a team of parents and community members who are passionate about bringing fully funded full-day kindergarten to Colorado? Consider applying for our CO Advocacy Fellowship! You can fill out the application here.