School board weighs pros, cons of kindergarten mill levy | SteamboatToday.com
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School board weighs pros, cons of kindergarten mill levy

Teresa Ristow
Kindergartner Maya Peilet, right, visits with her classmate Gracey Keller, during the first day of school at Soda Creek Elementary in 2015.
Courtesy Photo

— The Steamboat Springs Board of Education continues to weigh the pros and cons of asking voters in November to fund full-day kindergarten.

The board held a workshop Monday to gather feedback from stakeholders, including social services and nonprofit leaders, members of the Community Committee for Education, or CC4E, and other early childhood education advocates.

While all attendees agreed about the benefits of full-day kindergarten, two members of CC4E had concerns about how asking voters to fund a mill levy override this year might impact their group’s chances of gathering community support for a future bond or mill levy override.

“This has the potential to completely derail everything we’re doing,” said Collin Kelley, a CC4E member.

Kelley said that, if a mill levy to fund full-day kindergarten were to fail a year after referendums 3A and 3B failed, it would be difficult to gather voter support for the school district in 2017.

“If it fails, it has serious implications,” Kelley said.

Despite his concerns, however, Kelley, who is the parent of preschool-aged children, said he would support the measure if it went to voters, and he was hopeful it would pass.

Tami Havener, executive director of the Family Development Center, said she thought now was a good time as any to ask voters to fund full-day kindergarten, considering how often the issue has been publicly discussed in the past two years.

“I, personally, think the time is right,” Havener said.

She said that, because voters already are aware of the funding issues related to kindergarten, those leading a campaign wouldn’t need a lot of lead time to prepare for the election.

“This is very small and easy to wrap your head around,” Havener said. “It’s much more likely to pass than a capital campaign.”

Many attendees stressed the importance of offering free full-day kindergarten for all students, particularly because it is at-risk students who most need the program but often have the hardest time paying for it.

“We have more than you’d like to think of pretty poor children in this county, and whenever you talk about funding issues, it’s those families that are going to suffer the most, “ said Vickie Clark, director of Routt County Department of Human Services.

Board members Monday said they welcomed more public feedback on whether the board should move forward with a ballot measure in November to fund full-day kindergarten.

The board will make its decision Aug. 15 regarding whether to submit ballot language to the county.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow


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