DENVER - If two Colorado lawmakers get their way, the state will pick up more of the tab for the cost of kindergarten enrollment, placing less of a burden on school districts and parents.
As of now, the state picks up 58 percent of the bill and local districts and parents are left to pay for the rest -- meaning some parents pay as much as $300 per student per month, to send their child to kindergarten full time.
“I believe that if we claim to have a K-12 education system that we should fund K-12, particularly since we tend to fund other programs,” said Rep. Jim Wilson, R-CO, who represents District 60.
Wilson is introducing a bill that would shift all of the cost of full-day kindergarten to the state, which comes with a price tag of $247 million.
Wilson adds if the state pays for kindergarten for all students, hundreds of thousands of dollars will be freed up in local districts to fund other big time budget items.
“Many ways are being used to fund it [kindergarten programs] but that’s all money that’s coming out of the schools general fund that could be used for something else if the state actually stepped up and funded it,” said Wilson.
Given the fiscal note that’s attached to this bill, Wilson understands that it’s a long shot to pass.
“Slim and none and slim’s riding out of town, simply because that’s $247 million in a fiscal note and because of the fiscal note, people are going to say we can’t afford it,” he said.
Another bill is being introduced in the House that has a more progressive funding plan.
Sen. Andy Kerr’s bill would shift funding from the local districts and parents to the state from 58 percent (as it is now), to 13 percent per year for five years.
Kerr, a Democrat representing District 22, says his bill also puts the issue before voters in the next election.
“If we’re going to expect our kids to compete on a global market in the 21st century, they need a world class education starting in kindergarten,” said Kerr. “They’ll be reading better, they’ll be writing better, they’ll be doing math better, they’ll know more civics and geography than if they had been in a half day kindergarten.”
Kerr also admits the bill has an uphill battle because of the cost, but said that money is a critical investment in our state’s children and future.
“In the long run, the money that we would invest in full day kindergarten more than pays for itself in the achievement of our students,” said Kerr.