In the Colorado Springs School District 11, we are committed to providing our students with the best education, from preschool to post-graduation. As superintendent, I am responsible for the education system and for ensuring that all our kids are loved, challenged, and prepared.
In the first year of Colorado’s Universal Preschool Program, nearly 43,000 families have applied for state-funded preschool, about 40,000 have been matched, and more than 35,000 kids have accepted their match or enrolled to access 15 free hours of preschool.
This includes almost 3,800 low-income families that will receive 30 hours of preschool.
It’s important to remember that Colorado voters only originally approved ten hours, and Gov. Jared Polis and lawmakers were able to work together to increase that to 15 hours.
In District 11, our intentional preparations last school year to expand our preschool program by 20% across our district have enabled us to partner successfully with the Colorado Department of Early Childhood Education and the governor.
It also allows us to emphasize the importance of learning for our youngest students.
We know the many benefits of early education for children. These include increasing kindergarten readiness, literacy rates, and math skills, making students less likely to repeat a grade and more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.
It also helps kids in more subtle ways, like increasing self-confidence and nurturing a love of learning. Parent’s pocketbooks will also benefit, saving more than $600 monthly and around $6,000 annually.
We recently hosted Polis at one of our thriving preschools.
Through the universal preschool program, Jackson Elementary School has doubled the number of students served to 48. This is saving families money and enriching our student’s educational experience. We appreciate the governor’s commitment to education for all and realize that more access to early education helps everyone, school districts included.
Like any new comprehensive statewide program, there have been challenges rolling out the preschool program, and I don’t think anyone is denying that.
However, the critical point is that for nearly 40,000 kids, it’s working as intended. Locally, it’s allowed District 11 to offer the highest number of preschool seats in the county.
Thousands of families in our community can save money and access education that may have previously been out of reach.
Working collaboratively, we can move forward to do what is best for future generations and prepare them for lifelong success.
Michael Gaal is the superintendent of Colorado Springs District 11.
Sign up for Sound Off to get a weekly roundup of our columns, editorials and more.
To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.