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.




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