Ensuring School Readiness with High-Quality Preschool and Full-Day Kindergarten

An at-risk child who attends high-quality preschool and full-day kindergarten is less likely to fall behind better resourced peers later in school. However, only a fraction of Colorado children who need high-quality preschool programs are able to enroll. Only 21% of four-year-olds and 7% of three-year-olds are enrolled in our state-supported preschool education program. Recent investments in the Colorado Preschool Program are slowly expanding access, but over 16,000 at-risk four-year-olds are eligible, yet not able to enroll in preschool of any kind.

Full-day kindergarten builds on the academic and social gains children make in preschool. Unfortunately there aren’t enough full-day slots for all kindergarten-age children in many communities. Parents are increasingly choosing to enroll their children in a full day of kindergarten with the state’s percent of full-day kindergarten enrollees jumping from 40% to over 70% in just the past six years. Still, there are nearly 20,000 kindergarteners not enrolled in a full day and another significant portion of full-day kindergarteners who only have access because their parents can afford the tuition or because their local communities can afford a mill levy to cover the costs – these are opportunities not available to all of Colorado’s children. Given that the state only funds a little over a half-day of kindergarten, parents and communities face challenges in making up the difference.

 

Recent Policy Successes

Senate Bill 08-212 established a comprehensive description of school readiness and requires Colorado to begin giving a school readiness assessment to all kindergarten students in fall 2013.

House Bill 14-1298 builds on increased funding first authorized in 2013 to expand access to full-day kindergarten and preschool. Over these two years, the General Assembly authorized 8,200 new slots for at-risk children to enroll in either preschool or full-day kindergarten, depending on how school districts decide to prioritize their slots.