By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – State lawmakers are considering bills once again this year to fully fund all-day kindergarten.
Most Colorado school districts offer full-day kindergarten. But the State of Colorado only pays half the cost. Parents can pay up to $400 per child per month.
Representative Jim Wilson, a Republican representing Salida, is carrying a bill to change that.
“I was a teacher, counselor, principal, superintendent, so I either went up the ladder or down the tubes, whichever way you want to look at that,” said Wilson. “I have invested my life in education and I believe in public education.”
He also believes in public funding of full-day kindergarten and he is using a law passed nearly a decade ago to make the case that the state legislature intended to fully fund it.
“This was actually the intent of the legislature by 2013-2014 to fully fund kindergarten, according to statute, and it actually lists how much they planned on allocating each year,” said Wilson.
The allocation added up to $400 million over five years.
However, Wilson says lawmakers have not allocated a penny to full day kindergarten since then, “I’m a fiscal conservative that talks about, ‘If you have an obligation, take care of that obligation before you start new obligations or eliminate it.”
His bill asks for an increase of $42 million this year and $48 million next year. He says the money is there. Education funding, he says, has increased by 16 percent over the last decade.
It is a matter of priorities says Wilson, “We put money toward other programs in education over the last several years, for preschool for example, I’m all for preschool. However, if you fund preschool before you fully fund kindergarten it is like putting on deodorant before you take a shower. It makes no sense whatsoever.”
Wilson’s bill made it out of the House Education Committee but it will have an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate.
A separate bill by two democratic lawmakers to fund all-day kindergarten with a voter approved tax increase has been sent to the so-called kill committee in the Senate.