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Polis Seeks $227M For Full-Day Kindergarten

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis leaves the podium after delivering his first State of the State address to lawmakers Thursday morning.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis leaves the podium after delivering his first State of the State address to lawmakers Thursday morning.

Gov. Jared Polis wants to leverage Colorado's stronger than expected revenue projections to pay for full-day kindergarten next school year.

He's asking lawmakers to approve $227 million in the budget for the kindergarten classes.

Polis says the spending will allow 30,000 families to stop paying tuition.

Currently, the state only pays for a little more than half a day of kindergarten. As a result, some parents at public school districts are paying more than $300 a month for the classes.

"It's about time in Colorado that parents have full day kindergarten," the governor said at a budget briefing on Tuesday. "That has a positive affect on families, saving people money, and on districts freeing up capital."

He added the spending will also free up more preschool spots across the state.

School districts will not be required to offer full-day kindergarten under the governor's proposal. Parents can also still opt out if they want to.

Polis is keeping most of former Gov. John Hickenlooper's budget request intact. It is customary for new governors to make some amendments to their predecessor's budget proposal after taking office.

Polis is making some other notable additions to Hickenlooper's budget. He wants to spend $1.3 million and pass new legislation to allow the state to import prescription drugs from Canada, where the drugs can be less expensive.

He also proposed additional funding to add more inspectors at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency that regulates oil and gas wells.

Lawmakers will react to Polis' budget requests at a hearing Wednesday afternoon.

Both Republicans and Democrats have predicted there would be legislation passed this session to support the full-day kindergarten funding.

But some lawmakers, including Rep. Bob Rankin and Sen. Chris Holbert, have questioned where the money would come from.

Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Eleven public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.

Copyright 2019 KUNC

Scott Franz is a government watchdog reporter and photographer from Steamboat Springs. He spent the last seven years covering politics and government for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a daily newspaper in northwest Colorado. His reporting in Steamboat stopped a police station from being built in a city park, saved a historic barn from being destroyed and helped a small town pastor quickly find a kidney donor. His favorite workday in Steamboat was Tuesday, when he could spend many of his mornings skiing untracked powder and his evenings covering city council meetings. Scott received his journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an outdoorsman who spends at least 20 nights a year in a tent. He spoke his first word, 'outside', as a toddler in Edmonds, Washington. Scott visits the Great Sand Dunes, his favorite Colorado backpacking destination, twice a year. Scott's reporting is part of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.