Colorado’s Free, Full-Day Kindergarten Boosted Enrollment By Nearly 25%

Jenny Brundin/CPR News
Simla Elementary School kindergarten teacher Holly Koehn reads to her class. Simla Elementary is part of the rural Big Sandy School District in rural Elbert County.

Almost 12,000 more kids enrolled in kindergarten after Colorado started offering it all day and for free this past fall.

The law went into effect for the current school year and provides 100 percent funding for full-day kindergarten. The state used to only pay for half-day kindergarten.

Almost 62,000 Colorado kids enrolled in full-day kindergarten this year, according to numbers released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Education.

The actual cost of full-day kindergarten is higher than expected but isn’t likely to break the state budget. The shortage is about $9 million. Colorado spends $4.6 billion on kindergarten through 12th-grade education.

One of Gov. Jared Polis' main campaign promises was to make full-day kindergarten free to every family in Colorado.

Although kindergarten saw a spike in enrollment, the number of Colorado students enrolled in preschool through 12th grade grew by less than 1 percent from the 2018-2019 school year. 

Denver Public Schools saw the biggest increase in enrollment for all grades with a total of 92,112 students. The fastest-growing district in Colorado, with more than 100 students, is District 49 in El Paso County.

Adams 12 and Jefferson County School districts saw the largest drop in student enrollment in the fall.

CPR's Claire Cleveland contributed to this reporting.