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Mayor’s “Preschool Matters” on November Ballot for Denver Schools
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper has introduced the “Preschool Matters” program that will greatly impact future Denver schools students, if passed by voters in the November election. The early childhood education program is endorsed by the mayor and other Denver officials.
City Council President Michael Hancock believes the measure to be extremely important to the city and the Denver schools. Denver schools Superintendent Michael Bennett agrees, stating that Denver schools educators will do everything they can to pass the measure in November.
The program was developed from recommendations submitted to the mayor by his task force, which was charged with increasing preschool access for Denver’s children. Hickenlooper believes that access to quality and affordable preschools is crucial to the city’s future, as well as an essential part of improving the Denver schools.
Documented studies show that preschool is one of the best investments for any city and its youth. A recent study in California by the Rand Corporation found that a return on investment of $2.62 in savings could be garnered for every dollar spent on preschool. The savings is realized through lower juvenile crime and high school dropout costs — saving dollars for both Denver and the Denver schools, as well as graduating better educated Denver schools students.
Other studies have shown that the Denver schools children will be more likely to read by the third grade, less likely to require remedial education, and more likely to graduate high school and enter college.
Preschool Matters, which will greatly benefit the Denver schools and their students, will cost $12 million annually. The mayor is asking for an increase in sales tax that will equal 12 cents on every $100 of purchases within the city. If passed, the Denver sales tax will still be highly competitive with other Front Range communities.
Funding of the program covers:
• Tuition Credits — Open to children only for the year before entering kindergarten. Children are generally four-year-olds, and the program may be used only for one year. Credits are distributed based on need and the quality of the preschool program selected.
• Outreach and Enrollment.
• A Quality Improvement System for preschool providers and programs.
• Administration of the program by a nonprofit organization that still must be created.
• Internal and External Accountability, Measurement and Reporting — Covers the number of children enrolled in preschool, the number of quality rated providers, the program finances, and the academic success of the children who attend preschool.
Preschool Matters is similar to a defeated California measure, called Proposition 82. Though both programs expand preschool for four-year-olds, the California measure was much broader in application and based on an income tax increase only for incomes of $400,000 or more annually — as compared to Denver’s sales tax increase for everyone, making individual contributions minimal. The California measure also was in competition with an alternative offering by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Opponents to Preschool Matters believe there already are opportunities in place through the Denver schools that may be used to expand early childhood education. They believe the mayor is only creating a bureaucracy with administrative overhead. Opponents, as well as all Denver voters, will have their say in November.
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