Colorado Governor Jared Polis reads to Avon Elementary School kindergarteners

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis reads a book to Avon Elementary School kindergarteners during his school visit Feb. 1 in Avon, Colo. Polis was touring the school and speaking to board members and education staff on his proposal for state-funded all-day kindergarten.

Gov. Jared Polis’ top legislative priority — state-paid full-day kindergarten — is on its way to his desk.

The House on Tuesday agreed with Senate amendments to House Bill 1262 and re-passed it on a 54-11 vote.

The governor has 30 days to sign measures approved in the session’s last 10 days, but Polis isn’t expected to wait that long.

The Senate amended the bill Friday to let schools that use preschool funding for kindergarten keep that money if they have enough preschool enrollment.

The General Assembly appropriated $175 million for the program during its work on the 2019-20 state budget.

The state now pays for 58% of full-day kindergarten. Some schools already provide free full-day kindergarten, using existing operating funds. Others receive special property taxes to cover the rest of the cost, and still others charge the parents as much as $500 a month for the balance of the costs.

House Bill 1262 drew very little opposition. A few Republicans said the $175 million probably isn’t enough to cover all Colorado kindergartners, estimating the program would need $38 million more. The bill’s fiscal note projects participation in the first year at 85%.

Polis spoke at length about providing state-paid full-day kindergarten in his first State of the State address in January.

“It’s time for us to build a Colorado education system where every single child — regardless of their ZIP code — gets a great education that prepares them for a bright future. And it begins with preschool and kindergarten,” he told a joint session of the House and Senate on Jan. 10.

“Making full-day kindergarten available and accessible for all children sets kids up to be more successful in school and throughout their lives — improving performance, narrowing achievement gaps, leading to earlier identification and intervention for those with special needs, even increasing high school graduation rates down the road. ... It will save taxpayer money in the long run by increasing incomes and decreasing the achievement gap. It will strengthen families, our communities and our economy.”

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