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Tax vote would fund statewide full-day kindergarten

5:26 PM, Aug 15, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - Among the sweeping changes that would be made to Colorado's public school system if initiative 22 passes this year, is a new standard of full-day kindergarten statewide.

The package of reforms was already signed into law, but will only happen if voters decide to fork over more than $900 million more of income tax to pay for it.

It might be a stretch to say that everything you needed to know you learned in kindergarten, but this early year of schooling does give kids the building blocks they need for the coming years of school, and later, the real world.

The kids are fired up at this age and very impressionable.

"It's an opportunity for us to support their social and emotional growth. They're just sponges at that age," said Dr. Sheri Charles, director of student achievement for Aurora Public Schools.

Her district pushed for taxpayers to approve a mill levy in 2008 to fund full-day Kindergarten for the whole district, which the voters did.

"It's not piling more things on kids' plate," Charles said. "It's really supporting them as we go deeper into helping them be more well-adjusted and ready for first grade."

That extra time with teachers may be one reason studies show full-day Kindergarten helps kids perform better in math and reading.

"It's not wrong, but what it does is take away local control," said Jon Caldera, who heads the libertarian-minded Independence Institute.

Caldera opposes the state income tax increase, pointing out that Aurora voters got full-day kindergarten because they wanted it there.

Other districts can choose to follow suit or not.

Of course, this raises the question: if a new state tax will fund all-day kindergarten, what happens to the money Aurora taxpayers are already spending on it?

"We don't punish districts that have already taken the courageous steps to offer full-day kindergarten," said Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver,) who sponsored the education reform bill. "But we do allow them then to offer more extensive early childhood services, which is, things they want to do also."

If the voters approve the tax question, Aurora would keep its full-day kindergarten and expand its preschool classes.

There's another way of looking at that.

"So in other words, they voted for one thing, and they'll be getting another thing," quipped Caldera.

Supporters say it's the only fair way to make sure that full-day kindergarten becomes the standard kids can expect statewide.

While it may be one of the most visible pieces of the education overhaul, at $105 million, full-day kindergarten is not the most expensive item on the list.

9NEWS will continue to bring you stories explaining the full impact of initiative 22 as the election gets closer.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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