I still remember moments of kindergarten at Silverthorne Elementary School. Piles of snow pants and boots near the door. Meeting new friends. Leaving before lunch so the afternoon class could take over our small classroom.
Most people my age went to kindergarten for a half day, and for many of us, it was our first introduction to formal schooling. Thirty years later, the benefits of attending a quality preschool and full-day kindergarten are well-known and widely accepted.
We know that for all Colorado children, quality early childhood experiences — whether at home or at school — help get kids ready to learn. Right now, Coloradans have the opportunity to vote yes on Amendment 66 to cut the long waiting list for the Colorado Preschool Program and provide tuition-free full-day kindergarten to all families who want it.
According to the annual KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report by the Colorado Children’s Campaign, the number of Colorado kindergarteners in a full-day program has increased by 89 percent since the 2007-08 school year. That’s 70 percent of all kindergarteners statewide. Educators are offering it and families are taking advantage of it because we all know quality early childhood education is one of the longest-lasting investments we can make in a child.
Yet, our state still only pays for each 5-year-old to attend a half day. School districts, local communities and parents pick up the rest of the cost. Amendment 66 would change that.
Last year, when my own 5-year-old went to kindergarten in Denver, I paid $300 a month for the second half of his day. That was a great deal compared to what I’ve heard other parents may pay. Our family could afford it, but I know there were other children who weren’t so lucky. And they were the kids who needed it most.
We have the opportunity to make it up to them. Amendment 66 provides money for classroom technology, longer school days and school years. It will put effective educators into our classrooms, give principals more control over their budgets and require state reports on how the new system is stacking up.
Every school district in the state will see an increase in financial support from the state under Amendment 66. The Summit School District will receive about $2.7 million more in total classroom and teacher leadership investment funding in the 2014-15 school year than this year.
Amendment 66 would provide $1.9 million more each year for special education support for the Mountain BOCES, a regional education cooperative. That will allow Summit schools to free up local mill dollars that have been spent on this federal requirement. The measure also better supports gifted and talented students, English language learners and low-income students so that all students’ needs are met regardless of who they are or where they live.
Voting yes on Amendment 66 in November is voting for a significant, long-term investment in our youngest Coloradans. I’m grateful to past Summit County voters who invested in me. I’m ready to keep that commitment to future generations by voting yes on Amendment 66.
Tara McLain Manthey is a graduate of Silverthorne Elementary School, Summit Middle School and Summit High School. She lives and works in Denver.