Starting this fall, families in the Douglas County School District have the opportunity to send their children to full-day kindergarten for free.
On May 21, Gov. Jared Polis signed into law House Bill 19-1262, which provides funding for free, full-day kindergarten at Colorado's 178 school districts. Prior, the state funded half-day kindergarten, and in most cases, tuition paid by parents covered the rest.
The new legislation provides a more equitable approach to access to kindergarten, said Marlena Gross-Taylor, DCSD's chief academic officer.
“That's an expense now that you don't have to assume, and you can get your kids enrolled in neighborhood schools and really give them a jump-start to their education,” Gross-Taylor said.
For the 2019-20 state fiscal year, the act appropriates nearly $183 million to the department of education for full-day kindergarten programs. The act also appropriates $25,094 to the department of human services for childcare licensing and administration.
Historically, DCSD has offered tuition-based, full-day kindergarten and free, half-day kindergarten at its 48 elementary schools. The district will continue to offer both full- and half-day kindergarten programs.
Gross-Taylor said: “All principals are so excited to have kindergarten students all day long.”
The district will see a net loss of $600,000 in funding as a result of the act.
In the 2018-19 school year, the district received $4.7 million in full-day kindergarten tuition — which varied at neighborhood schools and was capped at $350 per month per student — and $5 million in per-pupil revenue from the state, according to DCSD. Individual schools used the funds to support their kindergarten programs.
HB19-1262 means that for full-day kindergarten in the 2019-20 school year, DCSD will be getting $9.1 million in per-pupil funding and no money from tuition.
Still, Paula Hans, a spokeswoman for the district, called the state's funding of full-day kindergarten a win for DCSD's students and families.
"The cost we will absorb saves our neighborhood school parents $4.5 (million) in tuition — so there are financial savings," combined with academic benefits, Hans said in an email.
According to the district, schools have been contacting families of students enrolled in half-day kindergarten prior to the passage of HB19-1262 to discuss the change to full-day kindergarten. And families who paid tuition for full-day kindergarten for the 2019-20 school year are being refunded.
Parents with questions about kindergarten should contact their child's individual school or call the district at 303-387-9500. DCSD's West Support Center, 701 Prairie Hawk Drive, Castle Rock, is open through the summer for in-person inquiries.
Gross-Taylor stressed that when kids benefit, the district benefits.
“The sooner that we can have our young students enrolled in school, we can start that process of their learning journey and reinforce the positive experience that learning brings,” Gross-Taylor said.
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