Polis kindergarten

Gov. Jared Polis, seated, signs Colorado’s full-day kindergarten program into law, joined by bill sponsors, from left, Sens. Rhonda Fields and Jeff Bridges, as well as Rep. Jim Wilson, who is holding a photo of another sponsor, Rep. Barbara McLachlan.

Full-day kindergarten went from pipe dream to the law of Colorado on Tuesday as Gov. Jared Polis delivered on one of his main campaign promises.

House Bill 1262 ensures there’s money to cover each child eligible for the preschool program. Some parts of the state have not been able to afford kindergarten in the past, and about 1 in 5 Colorado kids attend half-day kindergarten. In some cases, parents have had to pay up to $400 a month for their child to attend full-day kindergarten.

The governor’s office expects the $175 million infusion from next year’s budget to add support for more than 5,000 more preschoolers.

The program goes into effect with the new school year.

Polis initially asked the Legislature for $227 million.

In a Tuesday ceremony at Stedman Elementary School in Denver, he also signed House Bill 1055, to put up another $25 million to help school districts cover furniture, equipment and other startup costs.

“We are so excited that now every child in Colorado will have access to free, full-day kindergarten,” Polis said in a statement.

“No longer will a family have to choose between paying for kindergarten or making rent. This will save families thousands of dollars each year and open the door for others who could not afford it. This big step forward for Colorado children has been many years in the making.

“A broad, bipartisan coalition has worked tirelessly to see this vision become reality.”

Republican Rep. Jim Wilson of Salida, a main sponsor of the bipartisan bill this year, had tried and failed to fund kindergarten the last two sessions, where it was voted down in the House by the Democratic majority.

His hope became reality with the support of Polis and the bill’s co-sponsors, Democratic Sens. Jeff Bridges of Greenwood Village and Rhonda Fields of Aurora, with Rep. Barbara McLachlan, a Democrat from Durango.

“Every kid in Colorado deserves a fair shot at success no matter where they come from,” Bridges said in a statement. “The differences kids show up with in 1st grade stay with them the rest of their educational careers.

“Fully funded full-day kindergarten gives every kid across the state a strong start. It helps level the playing field, and ensures all our kids have the opportunity to earn a good life.”

Fields said the bill will help students and working families.

“And the signing of this bill is just another way that shows how we delivered for Colorado families this session,” Fields stated.

“This critical investment ensures that every kid in Colorado will get the strong start they deserve.”

Contact Joey Bunch at joey.bunch@coloradopolitics.com or follow him on Twitter @joeybunch.

Contact Joey Bunch at joey.bunch@coloradopolitics.com or follow him on Twitter @joeybunch.

Colorado Politics senior political reporter

Joey Bunch is the senior correspondent and deputy managing editor of Colorado Politics. His 32-year career includes the last 16 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and he is a two-time finalist.

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