Our view: Vote ‘yes’ for tuition-free, all-day K | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Vote ‘yes’ for tuition-free, all-day K







Steamboat Springs School District voters are being asked to approve Referendum 3C — a mill levy override to fund free all-day kindergarten — and we believe the ballot issue deserves a "yes" vote.

Our view:

We encourage local residents to vote "yes" on Referendum 3C.

Full-day kindergarten is not a luxury but a necessity that should be afforded to all students regardless of their family's ability to pay for the program. Without access to a full-day program, the district's youngest students can lose important educational and developmental ground.

The school district has been grappling with how to pay for the program for more than a decade, and the mechanism changes from year to year.

During the 2015-16 school year, all-day kindergarten was paid for through funding from the Education Fund Board. That situation changed going into this year, and after budget tweaking by the district, tuition for full-day kindergarten was set at $600. In other years, tuition has been as much as $2,400 per student.

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Steamboat Pilot & Today has long advocated for a permanent funding solution for full-day kindergarten, and we think Referendum 3C is the answer.

As we stated in a June editorial, it is mind-boggling that a progressive community such as Steamboat Springs — which is home to one of the best school districts in the state — has not come up with a permanent plan to fully fund all-day kindergarten, leaving parents wondering, year after year, whether or not they will have to come up with kindergarten tuition money in the fall.

In a perfect world, the state would fund the program fully. But in the meantime, the school district is wise to seek a local solution.

Local families, especially those struggling to make ends meet, should not have to decide between sending their children to all-day kindergarten and paying rent. The mill levy override would help level the playing field and ensure all students have equal access to an all-day kindergarten program, which gives children the foundation they need to be successful, life-long learners.

Though no formal opposition to Referendum 3C has formed, we have heard some opponents claim that approving the mill levy override is similar to subsidizing daycare for working families, and we think that's a misinformed position.

The kindergarten curriculum taught in the Steamboat Springs School District offers more instruction than a traditional daycare program. In addition to core reading and math instruction, which usually takes place in the mornings, kindergarten students also receive instruction in Spanish, music and art in the afternoon. If a student only attends in the morning, they miss out on that instruction, and the afternoons are also when special services, such as English language learning and academic intervention, take place.

Some opponents also claim the district would collect the full amount of $950,000 that is listed as the tax's ceiling in the ballot language, and then using those extra dollars for other purposes. Again, this is a misperception.

Under state law, the amount the district collects is directly tied to the number of students enrolled in kindergarten for any given year. The school district could not collect additional revenue under the constraints of state statute, and there would not be any "extra" funding.

In a year when there are 170 kindergarten students (this year there are 166), the tax would generate about $530,000. This would cost a residential homeowner $5 per $100,000 assessed valuation or $25 a year for someone who owns a $500,000 home. For commercial property owners, the amount would be $185 annually for a commercial property valued at $1 million.

We think the mill levy override is a small price to pay for ensuring our youngest students receive the strong foundation they need to flourish in school and compete in a changing global marketplace.

At issue:

The Steamboat Springs School District is asking local voters to approve a mill levy override to fully fund all-day kindergarten.

Our view:

We encourage local residents to vote “yes” on Referendum 3C.