Universal Pre-K Draft Unveiled: Here’s How it Stacks Up to the Business Community’s Priorities for Early Education

Last fall, Colorado Succeeds proudly supported Proposition EE, which initiated a statewide nicotine tax that will ultimately generate an estimated $230 million per year to ensure all Colorado 4-year-olds have access to preschool. Implementation of this new funding is an historic opportunity to invest in early education in Colorado, expand preschool access to all children, and rebuild the early education system.

Just last week, Colorado Succeeds and Colorado EPIC co-hosted a business-facing webinar with Speaker of the House Alec Garnett and Rep. Emily Sirota to learn more about, and provide feedback on, draft legislation that would create the new Colorado Department of Early Childhood to oversee Colorado’s universal preschool program.

The draft bill would accomplish two things:

  1. Creates a new state agency, the Colorado Department of Early Childhood
  2. Directs the Governor’s Office to work with existing state agencies, stakeholders and expert consultants to develop recommendations regarding the scope and structure of the new agency, and the operations and focus of a new statewide, universal, voluntary preschool program that will begin operating in 2023-24

Recommendations will be made to the Early Childhood Leadership Commission and then to the Joint Budget, Health and Education committees of the Colorado General Assembly. Further legislation will be required in the 2022 session.

As a part of our advocacy for the implementation of Proposition EE legislation, we developed Business Priorities for ECE with Colorado EPIC (Executives Partnering to Invest in Children). Colorado Succeeds is excited to see significant alignment with these priorities, outlined here:

Ensure all children have access to quality preschool experiences.

Yes. This bill directs the Governor’s Office to work with existing state agencies, stakeholders, and expert consultants to develop recommendations for a new, statewide, universal, voluntary preschool program that will begin operating in 2023-24. The new Colorado Department of Early Childhood will be charged with leveraging resources to maximize access for children.

Empower family choice, individualize funding to meet unique child needs and streamline with other community investments.

Yes. This bill creates a new Department of Early Childhood that must pursue efficiencies and streamline funding. The recommendations for the new statewide preschool program must address the diverse learning needs of children and empower families to choose the program that works best for their family and child.

Ensure participation and public funding is equally accessible to all licensed preschool providers.

Yes. The recommendations for the new program must ensure a mixed-delivery approach, meaning that school-based and community-based licensed preschool providers, including Head Start agencies, are included.

Address long-term capacity needs and reduce barriers to entry for individuals seeking opportunities to open childcare and preschool programs

Unclear. The new Department of Early Childhood could address capacity and develop strategies to reduce barriers to market entry for new providers. Additionally, federal recovery dollars can help address early childhood system capacity shortages. Recommendations regarding the scope and focus of that agency, and how to leverage all available revenue to ensure the success of the agency, will need to be incorporated into a transition plan for the agency. The business community could place a priority in ensuring system capacity-building is included as a key focus on the new agency.

Design processes and systems with simplicity, efficiency, and ease of use for families and preschool providers.

Yes. The new Colorado Department of Early Childhood must be designed to align and simplify programs, promote efficiency, and engage key stakeholders. In particular, the legislation requires recommendations be made regarding technology requirements to support parents in identifying childcare options and to support preschool providers in unifying eligibility and payment systems.

Implement program administration with agility, innovation, and transparency.

Yes. The new Colorado Department of Early Childhood is being created to enable new approaches to doing business in early childhood. In particular, the bill references that the new agency and new preschool program must embrace a more user-centered design approach, align to two-generation impact strategies and embrace innovation through technology and data.

While we are excited about this alignment, Colorado Succeeds will be advocating for ways to ensure key stakeholders are involved in the drafting and development of this transition plan for the new state agency and the new preschool program.

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Colorado Succeeds