Gov. Polis signs budget, visits southern Colorado

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Gov. Jared Polis celebrated his 100th day in office with an I-25 road trip in southern Colorado, and signed the state’s budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year. 

The budget is bigger this year, in part due to a projected $1.4 billion surplus, and also from a slew of increased spending measures that passed through the Democratic-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate. 

Much of that legislation is funded from the $820 million increase to the General Fund, the section of the budget lawmakers have control over.

More money will be dedicated next year to 3% raises for state employees, $121 million to public colleges and universities to limit tuition increases, $70 million for additional road construction costs, and $175 million to create a statewide full-day kindergarten program–a campaign promise of Polis’.

“It’s not overly structured with homework like the 10th grade is, and it’s not a daycare,” Polis said to a room full of parents, teachers, and students at High Plains Elementary school in Colorado Springs Thursday. “It’s in kindergarten. It’s quality kindergarten that helps give kids a strong start.” 

Polis addressed the crowd as its school district–Academy District 20–announced they will provide tuition-free full-day kindergarten next year. 

Superintendent Dr. Mark Hatchell said the district would have made the move regardless of the state decision, as most other districts in the Pikes Peak region have provided the program. 

“Currently we fund students at a half-day, and parents who want a full day would pay tuition for the rest, but now it will be free for all parents who want full-day kindergarten,” Hatchell said.

Hatchell said the curriculum would be focused on literacy.

Heather Henneman, a mother of three kids who have gone to kindergarten at High Plains, said she’s seen the benefit in her own kids, the first of whom went through half-day kindergarten.

“Academically, they were very well prepared for first grade,” she said. “They were missing the aspect of going to school for the full day. So, when we put our son into kindergarten, we decided to try full-day kindergarten. He went into first grade and he was able to go right off the bat.”

Full day kindergarten funding will be in place for all schools by the start of the 2019-20 school year, though not all schools that don’t provide it are expected to switch by that time.  

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