Supporting our youngest learners is critical for Colorado’s economic recovery.

COVID-19 has been devastating to many of Colorado’s industries and to much of our economy. As we seek ways to recover, one of the continued effects of the pandemic is the significant toll it has taken on parents of young children and the fracturing of our early child care systems.

According to a recent study by ReadyNation, 79 percent of Colorado parents surveyed reported at least one adverse impact on their work due to childcare problems, including one-in-four saying they were reprimanded and 16 percent saying they were fired. The same study also reported that employers lose $680 million annually due to childcare challenges faced by their workforce.

In addition to the effects on parents, our youngest learners are falling behind. The inability to create accessible and equitable childcare has been a problem for years, and COVID-19 has only made matters worse. The ramifications of our children falling behind are detrimental to our long-term economic success and a big reason why we must support Colorado’s youngest learners now.

Voters throughout Colorado have the opportunity to ensure that children across the state have a healthy, strong start with a YES vote on Proposition EE.

Proposition EE, a proposed tax on nicotine vaping and tobacco products would not only help avoid crippling budget cuts to K-12 schools and close the tax loophole on vaping products, but — of critical importance to Colorado’s economic future — would provide universal preschool for up to 10 hours a week for all Colorado 4-year-olds.

Before COVID-19, many employers in Colorado were investing in, and testing solutions for, the talent pipeline. They were expanding programs to recruit and retain a skilled and diverse workforce. The return on investment has been clear – through the coaching, mentorship and real-world problem solving these high school and post-secondary experiences provide students opportunities to explore their passions and build relevant skills aligned with careers in high-need Colorado industries.

However, given the enormity of the economic challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s time for business leaders to think longer-term. Building a strong talent pipeline equipped to address the challenges of our future starts far earlier than high school. It starts with early childhood education.

Access to high quality early childhood education has shown to drastically improve outcomes for kids. The Perry Preschool Project, one of the most well-known studies of the long-term effects of preschool, found that society saw a nearly $13 return on investment for every dollar invested in their program. Decades of research show that universal preschool is simply one of the best ways to ensure significant positive lifelong effects on educational, economic, and health outcomes for our children.

Many of Colorado’s kids are currently not getting the early support they need. By age 5, half of children in families with lower incomes are not considered ready for school. Without the needed supports during these early years, the achievement gap continues to grow. High-quality early care and education environments provide a stable place for children to grow and thrive, allowing them to build the strong foundation of cognitive and social-emotional skills they need to be prepared to succeed in school and develop healthy, lifelong positive outcomes.
Children who access quality preschools are less likely to be placed in special education classes, less likely to have future interactions with law enforcement, and more likely to attend college.

High-quality education has the ability to level the playing field for all children, ensuring that every child has what they need to start kindergarten ready to learn and thrive. Investing in early childhood is a solution that creates upward mobility through opportunity for all of our communities and can be a pathway out of poverty.

Proposition EE’s funding for universal preschool is also about investing in the viability of Colorado’s workforce. In addition to the educational and professional outcomes for children, universal preschool provides critical support to today’s employees. By providing universal access to high quality pre-K, parents are less burdened by the high cost of childcare and have more opportunity to participate in the workforce.

If we’ve learned anything over the past eight months it’s that we cannot predict the future. What we can do is invest in it. Join us in supporting Colorado’s children, families, businesses, and economy by voting YES on Proposition EE. Learn more at forcokids.com.

Gregory J. Anton, CPA is a Partner with BDO USA, LLP, Mile High United Way Trustee, and a founding board member of Executives Partnering to Invest in Children (EPIC). 

Adeeb Khan is the Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at Delta Dental of Colorado and the Executive Director of the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation. He currently serves on the Early Childhood Education and Care Advisory Committee at Colorado Succeeds. 

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