Our View: Education funding request a no-brainer | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Education funding request a no-brainer

As the Education Fund Board is poised to make its grant funding decisions for next school year, we think there's one request that rises to the top and begs for overwhelming approval.

The Steamboat Springs School District is asking the board to consider funding full-day kindergarten, and we think there's opportunity here for the fund board to have a huge impact on the education of young children while also capturing some political goodwill that will go far in convincing voters to renew the half cent sales tax for education before it sunsets in 2019.

Full-day kindergarten is not mandated in Colorado, and the state funds 0.58 percent of the cost. As a result, Steamboat parents pay for their kindergartners to attend a full-day program at a cost of $2,400 per year per student. In recent years, the district has been able to offer scholarships to families with financial burdens to offset the cost of full-day kindergarten thanks in part to other grants and gifts from local charitable organizations, but that funding is not guaranteed.

The district's grant request to the Education Fund Board comes with a $329,000 price tag. If approved, the grant funding would replace the tuition and scholarship fees the district currently collects and ensure that full-day kindergarten is available to all students in the district regardless of ability to pay. In our opinion, this would be money well spent, especially since it benefits younger learners where studies show brain growth is occurring at a faster pace. In essence, money spent on early childhood education gives districts more bang for their buck — the earlier investments can be made in a child's education the better.

According to education professionals, kindergarten serves as a bridge year — the time when students move from a more unstructured early childhood learning environment to a more formal classroom setting. Kindergarten is when students learn social skills, when they learn to read and write and when they learn about school itself.

Full-day kindergarten lays a strong foundation for young students and can boost student performance and social interaction, and it positively impacts future success in school. Studies also reveal that full-day kindergarten, when offered universally, can help close the achievement gaps between children from minority and low-income families, who seem to benefit the most from a full-day program.

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A full day of kindergarten also gives teachers more time to interact with students, and it cuts down on the number of transitions in a child's day. It also allows young students to get used to the schedule and demands of a normal school day. Research shows that children attending full-day programs have stronger academic gains in that first year of school than children enrolled in half-day programs.

Funding full-day kindergarten also fits the Education Fund Board's mission of positively impacting teacher-student interaction. Ensuring that full-day kindergarten is universally available to all children, regardless of income, is vital to our local educational system. It creates a level playing field for all students and increases the chances for academic success in the future. And as we stated earlier, we think a decision to support the full-day kindergarten funding request has the potential to become a rallying cry in support of the education sales tax's renewal.

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