Polis Administration Releases Draft Plan for Universal Preschool Program That Will Save Coloradans Money, Build World-Class Care and Education System

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Public invited to comment, attend virtual listening sessions, submit feedback by Dec.15

DENVER — A draft report outlining key recommendations for the voter-approved, voluntary, universal preschool program has been released for public feedback. The universal preschool program, which will be overseen by the new Department of Early Childhood, will give all Colorado families the opportunity to access 10 hours of high-quality early care and education per week, per child, in the year prior to the child entering kindergarten. It is set to launch in 2023.

“I ran on a bold vision for universal preschool that will save Coloradans money and ensure we build a world-class care and education system that our children deserve,” said Gov. Jared Polis. “I am very proud of the progress toward delivering universal preschool to every family in Colorado. We will continue building a Colorado for all and seize the opportunity to improve the quality and availability of early childhood programs.”

The draft report was released by the Transition Working Group, created by the General Assembly to guide the future of early childhood care and education in Colorado as the state looks to improve and expand child care and education for all families. The Transition Working Group includes key leadership from the Governor’s Office, Early Childhood Leadership Commission (ECLC), the Department of Education, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Public Health & Environment. The report was also informed by the Transition Advisory Group, a group of 56 community leaders appointed by the ECLC to advise on the plan. 

A series of virtual listening sessions will be held to share the draft plan and gather public feedback. Additional public comment can be provided through an online feedback form now through Dec.15.

Among the key recommendations outlined in the plan, the universal preschool program emphasizes the importance of building an early childhood infrastructure that establishes designated leaders in each community. Local leaders, rather than state employees, are best positioned to know what a community needs and create innovative solutions that meet the state’s vision in a way that is suited for the local context. Local leaders, selected by the Department of Early Childhood, would be charged with solving local challenges, fostering partnerships, creating alignment among all local entities, and allocating funding equitably in their communities. 

Based on stakeholder feedback received through this process, the recommendations will be updated and submitted to the ECLC by Jan. 1, 2022. The ECLC will have two weeks to approve the recommendations and submit the plan to the Governor and the General Assembly.  

The draft report comes a month after Gov. Polis, state legislators, and Coloradans gathered to celebrate key milestones in the state’s effort to reimagine early childhood care and education for young children and their families.

“As a parent and a grandparent, I know that early childhood education is the best investment we can make in our state’s children, families, and our economy,” said Senator Janet Buckner. “These recommendations represent critical next steps to prioritize equity, build a stronger, more accessible early childhood system, and make this consequential program a reality.”

“The universal preschool program offers Colorado an opportunity to rethink how we currently serve children and families throughout our early childhood system, elevate and strengthen our early childhood workforce, and build an improved infrastructure,” said Representative Emily Sirota. “I look forward to feedback on this critical plan, which will bring us one step closer to meeting these goals."

Colorado’s commitment to early childhood care and education is rooted in research that shows universal access to high-quality preschool can transform the lives of children, families, and communities. 

The window from birth to age 5 is a critical moment in a child’s development, with 90% of brain development occurring during this time. The experiences children have in the first five years of their life lay the foundation for their future, and enrollment in a high-quality preschool program has major impacts on the entire course of a child's life.  

Research shows children who attend high-quality preschool are, on average, eight months ahead in academic learning and about five months ahead in executive function skills, such as listening, planning and self-control, compared to those who do not. Benefits extend far beyond the early years; children who attend high-quality preschool are more likely to graduate college and less likely to become a teenage parent or receive public assistance later in life.