‘Tough trade-offs’ ahead in state budget

By John Herrick

COLORADO INDEPENDENT

Gov. Jared Polis stood in the Greenlee Elementary School library to announce that free, all-day kindergarten — his No. 1 campaign promise — was on its way to reality.

“Every single child deserves a strong start,” the governor said late last week as he was flanked by lawmakers, educators and students. The current kindergarten system doesn’t treat students equally, he said. “What you get depends on chance — where you live, how much money you have.”

Polis’s announcement came after the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) set aside $185 million in next year’s budget, which he says is enough to fully pay for projected enrollment across the state.

But it took the JBC weeks to find room in the $30 billion state budget for the plan, lawmakers say, and it came at the expense of K-12 education, repairs to government buildings, and other state programs Democrats consider to be underfunded.

“The governor, with the kindergarten request, put pressure on every part of the budget,” said Rep. Chris Hansen, a Democrat from Denver who serves on the Joint Budget Committee. “So we’re having to make some tough trade-offs.”

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