What would you do with an extra $500 a month?
At the start of a new school year, many Colorado parents of kindergartners are happily asking themselves this question. That’s because, for the first time, parents of kindergartners do not have to pay for their children to attend school for the whole day.
Child Care Costs
Until now, Kindergarten cost a lot of parents in Colorado a ton of money. Of the 50,000 kids that attended full-time kindergarten before the new legislation was passed this year, only 19,000 of them were going for free. Families were paying for about 25,000 kids to attend kindergarten all day.
The new legislation allows for an extra 13,000 kids to attend full-day kindergarten. It frees up funding for school districts now that were previously using millions of dollars from their own budgets to fund full-day kindergarten programs. That money is now freed up to be spent on other priorities.
A Giant Step
With the passage of full-day kindergarten, Colorado has taken an important step forward for accessible public education.
And this matters for Colorado parents, of course—but it also matters for people without children. Years of research have shown that early childhood education (ages 0 to 5) not only has life-long benefits for children, but for their communities as well.
It is not only about the money. There are important life skills that we as human beings need to develop and master in those early years, or odds are that we never will. So, it is a really big deal that every parent in our state now has the opportunity to send their children to kindergarten for free.
Before free full-day kindergarten was passed, I was extremely limited in my scheduling options for classes. Unable to afford the monthly costs for full-day kindergarten, I only had three hours in the morning where I could take classes on campus when my kids were in school. My schedule forced me into night classes or online classes, which took time away from the family as a whole.
Now that full-day free kindergarten has passed, both my children get to be in school full day and I have the opportunity to take classes at times that don’t take away from family time. I even have time to join clubs and organizations, or to take advantage of supplemental instruction leadership opportunities, all of which were previously impossible. My daughter always asked me last year to be in the “full-day friends” class because they got recess and lunch. Now that my son is in kindergarten, he gets to have lunch with his sister and gets more socialization.
-Karina, FRCC student
A Child Care Desert
Talk to any parent along the Front Range, and they will tell you that child care costs here are exorbitant. Sometimes, monthly child care costs more than a monthly mortgage payment.
Colorado’s Front Range is what’s called a child care desert, meaning that we do not have enough high-quality, affordable options to meet the demand. This is yet another reason why free full-day kindergarten is so significant.
There are programs in every county in our state meant to address the gaps in the child care system, like head start, Colorado Child Care Assistance Program—and even CCAMPIS (Child Care Access Means Parents in School) at Front Range Community College.
Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS)
Close to 200 colleges and universities were awarded CCAMPIS funding in 2018, and FRCC was excited to be among them. Our CCAMPIS grant is funded through September 2022—makes child care assistance available to our students who have kids. (The program is available at all of our campuses, including for our online courses.)
CCAMPIS officially launched at FRCC in January of this year, and at this time has received 90 applications, with new ones coming in weekly. Twenty-nine students have been accepted to the CCAMPIS program.
Lack of affordable child care is often a barrier for students—and for working parents. Both the CCAMPIS program at FRCC and Colorado’s new full-day Kindergarten are important developments. While these two steps won’t solve the problem by themselves, they will help a lot of families over the next year. It’s a solid step in the right direction.