Attendees of the packed Education Policy Networking Series April 30 event were listening to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis describe his vision for full-day kindergarten in Colorado, when his policy advisor shouted from the back of the room, “Hey, Gov! The bill just passed!”
The governor was all smiles, and clapping and high-fives erupted from the crowd of education leaders at the event sponsored by the School of Education & Human Development (SEHD) and the School of Public Affairs.
Universal full-day kindergarten and more pre-k
HB19-1262 funds universal full-day kindergarten in Colorado in 178 school districts, as well as adds 5,100 pre-k slots in school districts. The bill passed the Senate and will reach Gov. Polis’ desk soon.
“It passed! We did it,” Polis said at the education policy event, pumping his fists over his head. “Some people think that government moves slowly … that this could take a year or two. No. This is this fall: free full-day kindergarten this August and 5,100 more funded preschool slots.”
Kristie Kauerz, EdD, clinical professor of education and director of the National P-3 Center, moderated the event, which brought together local experts in education.
“You were the lucky charm!” Kauerz said. “Full-day kindergarten is in the blood and veins of Colorado now, thanks to you and your staff.”
Looking at SEHD Dean Rebecca Kantor, Gov. Polis mentioned that he looks forward to partnering more with CU Denver to help solve education issues from birth through university studies.
Previously, Gov. Polis had described the “why” behind full-day kindergarten:
“If we truly care about the achievement gaps based on income and based on race, it’s important to give every child a strong start. It’s a real-life affordability issue for families. It’s also a workforce issue, in terms of empowering second parents to reenter the workforce sooner, if they want to.
“There are so many reasons that we step up to make sure that every child can have a strong start. And that’s why we are so excited that this fall, we will have full-day kindergarten all over Colorado! And, for the families who can stretch and afford it today, that means freeing up $300-400 a month for after-school and summer programs.”
When education experts come together
Sharing the stage with Gov. Polis were education expert panelists:
- Anji Gallanos, director of Preschool through Third Grade (P-3) Office, Colorado Department of Education
- Allie Kimmel, senior policy advisor to Gov. Polis
- Diane Lauer, assistant superintendent of Priority Programs and Academic Support, St. Vrain Valley School District
- Lisa Roy, executive director of Early Childhood, Denver Public Schools (DPS)
Panelists echoed the importance of collaborative efforts – from state agencies to school districts to community early childhood programs – to create aligned, coherent systems that guide student transitions throughout their years, for each and every grade.
All shared an excitement for full-day kindergarten. They discussed important education initiatives, including the READ Act, DPS’s Road to Reading Initiative and St. Vrain’s P-TEACH pipeline program with CU Denver.
Getting goosebumps over education legislation
“It is rare to have a critical mass of people who helped to make the legislation successful – indeed, who have worked for decades to expand full-day kindergarten – in the same room with the governor when the bill passes,” said Kauerz.
“The serendipity of the timing was electric and gave many people in the room goosebumps. I’d like to say we planned to end the event that way. Instead, we need to thank the Senate for working late … and maybe believe that kindergarten karma is strong in Colorado.”
Guest contributor: Julia Cummings, School of Education & Human Development