Hot Sheet

A reality check on Polis’ plans to expand preschool, kindergarten: Pie in the sky?

Author: Dan Njegomir - June 14, 2017 - Updated: June 16, 2017

Preschoolers at Stetson Elementary School give a salute to Veterans during a Veterans Day assembly at the school Monday, November 11, 2013. (Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette)

Assuming you want to know even more about 2nd Congressional District U.S. Rep. Jared Polis’s bid for the governor’s office — and, hey, maybe you do — it’s not too early to bring some of the Boulder Democrat’s ambitious goals back down to earth. Notably, his campaign proposal to offer free preschool and full-day kindergarten to all Colorado kids.

Chalkbeat Colorado’s Nicholas Garcia cuts to the chase and finds that Polis might have a hard time delivering, especially if, as he told Chalkbeat, he hopes to go to state voters for a tax hike to cover the “hundreds of millions of dollars required.”

Notes Garcia:

… Colorado voters historically have rejected statewide tax increases for education, and state lawmakers have little appetite to spend existing money on early childhood education.

… It’s unclear how much it would cost to pay for universal preschool access. The state spent $86 million in 2015 to send more than 21,000 at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds to preschool through the Colorado Preschool Project.

To pay for full-day kindergarten for all Colorado students, the state would need to spend about an additional $250 million, according to a 2016 legislative analysis.

Garcia also runs the idea by a member of the General Assembly:

State Rep. Jim Wilson, a Salida Republican, has attempted to send more money to the state’s kindergarten classrooms for the last three years. He said he welcomed Polis’s commitment, but was skeptical.

“There’s a whole lot of difference between an election and reality,” he said. “I don’t see the governor’s office, no matter who is in there, sending a budget with $250 million for full-day kindergarten.”

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.