State looks to phase in full-day kindergarten

Additional funds to be used for at-risk students

At a glance

• A bill passed by the General Assembly this year is designed to help phase in all-day kindergarten programs across the state.

• The bill will increase funding by $524 for each full- and half-day Moffat County School District kindergarten student.

• The school district will use the funds to provide full-day kindergarten to at-risk students.

— More Colorado kindergartners soon could have the opportunity to attend school for a full day.

A bill passed this year requires the state to provide more funding for full-day kindergarten programs across Colorado, including those in Moffat County.

Still, the day when full-day kindergarten is available for all students in the Moffat County School District may take a while.

By passing House Bill 1388, the General Assembly increased the amount of funding the state would provide to all-day kindergarten programs across the state, said Lori Bowers, Colorado Preschool Program senior consultant.

In the past, full-day kindergarten was funded through the Colorado Preschool and Kindergarten Program. Recently, however, funding for full-day kindergarten was transferred into the school funding formula.

The bill increases full- and half-day kindergarten students from 0.5 of a full time equivalency unit to 0.58 FTE.

Currently, the Moffat County School District receives about $6,550 per FTE, district finance director Mark Rydberg said.

A 0.08 FTE increase for kindergarten students adds up to an additional $524 the school district will receive for each kindergarten student.

The bill also makes provisions for full-day kindergarten funding to increase in the next four years, Bowers said, so that school districts across Colorado can begin phasing in the program.

The state's ultimate goal in the increase is to help make full-time kindergarten available for any student whose parents want them enrolled in the program, said Ellen Dumm, deputy chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien.

School districts can choose to spend additional kindergarten funds now or stockpile them for a later date.

However, school districts can only spend funds from the increase for full-day kindergarten programs.

"If districts don't implement full-day kindergarten right away, they can't spend that supplemental funding for anything else," Bowers said. "They have to hold it in reserve until they are ready to implement the program."

School districts can choose when and how to do that.

"It's really a local decision about how they move forward with that," Bowers said.

The Moffat County School District plans to put those funds to work during the 2009 fiscal year, Rydberg said.

The number of full-day kindergarten students in the school district during the 2008-09 school year may increase a little, he said, adding that full-day kindergarten programs for all students in the district won't be available next year.

"Some kids will be in full-day kindergarten but not all," Rydberg said. "And, I wouldn't say a huge percentage, either."

Instead, the school district will focus on providing all-day kindergarten programming for at-risk students, he said.

Rydberg said full-day kindergarten funding is one of several programs funded after a mil stabilization passed in 2007. The action prevents property tax mil levies from changing for school districts, including in those where the mill would have otherwise dropped and would have required the state to provide more funding.

If the stabilization is deemed unconstitutional, those and other programs could be "up for grabs," Rydberg said.

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