By Kimberlee Sia, CEO of KIPP Colorado Schools
When was the last time you visited a Kindergarten classroom? If you haven’t been in one lately, I invite you to contact your local school and pay a visit. You’ll have the opportunity to see five and six year olds who are curious and excited about learning, playing and laughing with new-found friends, and working their way through learning the basics of literacy and math. The time in Kindergarten, especially when it is a full-day program, is setting the critical foundation for a student’s future.
Research shows that full-day kindergarten leads to stronger academic achievement for students, fewer gaps between student subgroups, decreased remediation for students in future years, and better development of social/emotional skills, which has lasting impacts into middle school, high school, and beyond.
As the leader of a network of public charter schools in Denver and mother of a preschool child, I know that kindergarten is worth the investment.
But today, most public school districts don’t have the funding to cover the costs of an all-day program, so parents must pay tuition in order for their children to attend the afternoon portion of the day.
For too many in Colorado, family income determines whether or not a child can receive the benefits of full-day k
indergarten. Even though many Colorado districts offer sliding-scale tuition, the reality is that even a small monthly expense still puts all-day kindergarten out-of-reach for some low-income families. Students from families who cannot afford and are therefore unable to access full-day kindergarten lose out, while children from wealthier families can participate in a full-day program and continue learning. This reality creates educational inequity among students starting at the earliest ages.
As a network of public charter schools in Denver that educate many students from economically underserved communities, KIPP Colorado decided in 2015 to address this inequity by offering free, full-day kindergarten to all of our students. But at KIPP, we are committed not only to increasing opportunity for our own students, but for all children in Colorado.
Thankfully, under Governor Polis’s leadership, state lawmakers are poised to act. HB 19-1262, currently moving through the state legislature, offers a chance for children and families in Colorado, regardless of income, to compete on a more level playing field. The bill uses flexibility within the state’s current budget process to provide funding for free, full-day kindergarten for every child in Colorado.
HB 19-1262, which has already passed the House and is being debated in the Senate, would deliver on an important promise that Governor Polis made when he campaigned for office: All families, regardless of income, should have equal access to a strong start in school for their children.
It’s not just parents and educators backing this bill; many business leaders also understand the need to invest in building a highly educated workforce to meet the needs of Colorado’s growing economy—including the booming technology sector. After all, it is today’s youngest students who will be tacking tomorrow’s most pressing challenges.
If you are a concerned citizen who is committed to expanding opportunity for all children, now is the time to contact your state Senator and urge him or her to vote to make HB 19-1262 law.
My daughter and the thousands of young children like her across Colorado have big dreams for their future. Let’s give all young people the start they deserve by offering tuition free, all-day kindergarten programs that will foster curiosity, instill academic confidence and build a strong foundation that will endure for years to come.