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News briefs from the Front Range

Full-day kindergarten now in District 11

More than 1,000 children in Colorado Springs D-11 will enroll in free full-day kindergarten classes starting next fall. This is the first time the district has offered free kindergarten; parents paid $265 per month beforehand.

All of the districts departments cut their budgets to fund the classes, with additional funds coming from the districts mill levy override.

It was one of our top priorities, said D-11 spokesperson Elaine Naleski.

Gov. Bill Ritter also called for full-day kindergarten in Colorado schools as part of his controversial mill levy freeze program, which will kick more local funding and fewer state dollars toward public education. NZ

Libertarian think-tank noses around D-11

The financial misdoings in D-11s teachers union have received plenty of press over the past two weeks. Now the Independence Institute, a conservative think-tank in Golden, has taken note.

A recent public policy podcast on the institutes website,, featured a conversation between education analyst Ben DeGrow and the organizations president Jon Caldara.

District 11s teacher-training fund was dissolved after union president Irma Valerio and vice president Mark Hampson misused taxpayer dollars to attend workshops. But the podcast focused only minimally on this hanky panky, as Caldara penned it.

Instead, Caldara and DeGrow slammed the district for paying a portion of Valerios salary, a common practice in Colorado school districts that has nothing to do with the financial investigation.

That money could be going toward textbooks, said Caldara. NZ

Ritter to sign bills in Colorado Springs

Gov. Bill Ritter will visit Colorado Springs on Monday to sign two bills, including one establishing mental health services for veterans' families.

Senate Bill 146, by Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, funds a three-year pilot project meant to help family members here cope with the return of veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan.

The signing comes with mental-health services at Fort Carson under scrutiny amid complaints that soldiers did not receive adequate treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ritter will also sign a bill by Rep. Michael Merrifield, D-Manitou Springs, requiring a second annual count of school children. The measure is meant to better distribute money to local school districts struggling to absorb students because of Fort Carson's anticipated growth.

Ritter is expected to address a new law addressing restorative juvenile justice programs. The signings take place at 9 a.m. at the gazebo outside the Pioneers Museum, 215 S. Tejon St. If weather is poor, the alternate site is Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave. MdY

Book Broker lives on

A little Barnes & Noble, with a touch of Hathaway's: That could describe the look of The Book Broker, circa summer 2008.

Owner Roy Jackson confirmed this week that his independent bookstore will have a place in the four-story, loft-laden building that developers are planning for the 119 E. Bijou St. address. He'll clear out of his space by July 31, with hopes of being back in about a year.

One big difference he expects upon returning: no labyrinthine layout in his 4,200 square feet.

"You'll just see one room with bookshelves in it," Jackson says. "It will look bigger, though it won't, in fact, be bigger."

Another difference: Along with both new and used books, Jackson expects to stock more magazines and newspapers, which would bring the downtown area something approaching a newsstand for the first time since Hathaway's closed last year.

Starting in mid-August and running through the construction period, would-be readers can visit or go north to 4622A Northpark Drive, a warehouse location that will double as a retail space. KW

Report cites Dobson's national prominence

A national study has found that conservative religious leaders are quoted, mentioned or interviewed in the media nearly three times as much as their leftist counterparts.

According to Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog group based out of Washington, D.C., this gives the false impression conservatives are motivated by religion while liberals aren't.

Focus on the Family chairman James Dobson featured prominently in the study. From Nov. 3, 2004, to Dec. 31, 2006, he surfaced in the mainstream media more than 1,600 times.

The report categorized him as a "celebrity" leader, meaning he makes news rather than comments on it. Over the study period, he denigrated cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants for promoting gay tolerance, spoke out against embryonic stem-cell research and plugged Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court. NZ

Bills friendly to ex-cons at risk

Gov. Bill Ritter gave lip service early on to reducing recidivism in Colorado. So why, prisoner advocates want to know, might he veto two bills that would help accomplish that goal?

HB 1313 and HB 1107 would make life easier for ex-cons who often face insurmountable challenges to employment and housing once they leave prison.

The first bill would loosen personal identification requirements at the state's Department of Motor Vehicles, allowing ex-offenders to use a prison ID in conjunction with other documents to obtain a state-issued ID. Other disenfranchised groups, like the homeless and the elderly, would have better access to identification. Ritter is expected to veto the bill because of security concerns.

"He has the opportunity to address [the ID] problem," says Christie Donner of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition "If he vetoes it, everyone working on this will have to continue."

The second bill would allow ex-offenders (exempting sex-crime perpetrators) to seal their criminal records 10 years after they completed prison time. Advocates say it will help ex-cons with employment. Donner anticipates Ritter will veto that bill as well. His deadline is June 4.

"It makes you question his commitment," she says. NZ

Compiled by Kirk Woundy, Michael de Yoanna and Naomi Zeveloff.

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