Early Childhood Leadership Commission Unanimously Approves Recommendations for Universal Preschool Program That Will Save Coloradans Money, Build World-Class Care and Education System

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Early Childhood Report Recommends Establishing Local Leads to Help Build National Model for High-Quality Preschool to Help Ensure Every Child is Ready for School 

DENVER — Today, the Early Childhood Leadership Commission (ECLC) unanimously approved a final report outlining key recommendations for the voter-backed, voluntary, universal preschool program that is now available, marking a significant milestone in Colorado’s effort to save families money and build a world-class care and education system. 

“Colorado voters supported building a world-class universal preschool program that prepares our kids for success and will save hardworking Colorado families on average $4,300 each year,” said Governor Jared Polis. “Today’s report is a step toward making high-quality early education and child care more affordable, accessible, and easier for families to navigate.”

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.

“Colorado’s kids, parents, educators, and early childhood advocates got a win today,” said Speaker Alec Garnett, D-Denver. “This report is the next step in ensuring that all Colorado families can save money and access quality preschool education and early learning. Investing in our kids means moving Colorado forward, planting the seeds for a better, more prosperous future.” 

The final report was approved following an extensive planning and engagement process. The report was informed by stakeholders statewide; the Transition Advisory Group, a group of 56 community leaders appointed by the ECLC; and the Transition Working Group, a group of key leaders from the Governor’s Office, ECLC, the Department of Education, the Department of Higher Education, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Public Health & Environment. 

Among the key recommendations outlined in the plan, the new Department of Early Childhood is advised to build an early childhood infrastructure that establishes designated local leads to ensure the program is properly implemented in every community. 

“Early childhood is a critical period in child development that dramatically shapes a child’s subsequent education and life experiences,” said Sen. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora. “We have an incredible opportunity to implement universal preschool across our state while improving education outcomes and supporting our families, and this report brings us one step closer to that reality here in Colorado. I’m very proud to have played a key role in this effort, which will have life-changing effects on our youth for generations to come.”

Local leads are best positioned to know what a community needs and to create innovative solutions that meet the state’s vision in a way that is suited for the local context. These local leads would be selected by the Department of Early Childhood and charged with solving local challenges, fostering partnerships, creating alignment among all local entities, and allocating funding equitably in their communities. 

This report represents a massive step forward toward saving parents money and creating a more cohesive early childhood education and care system,” said Rep. Emily Sirota, D-Denver. “As a former early learning professional, I know how important it is to support our children in the critical early learning years, setting them up to thrive.”

The recommendations also call for the creation of a single, unified application for families to complete to access all publicly funded early childhood services. The single application would streamline the enrollment and eligibility process for both families and providers.

“Access to child care not only supports critical early development and future educational outcomes, but also the very well-being and success of families across our state,” said Majority Leader Steve Fenberg. “With the final report from the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, we are one major step closer to seeing our vision for universal preschool become reality. I’m grateful for the hard work of the commission, whose efforts are going to make a world of difference in the lives of Colorado’s parents and kids.”

Speaker Garnett, Senator Buckner, Rep. Sirota and Majority Leader Fenberg were sponsors of the bipartisan HB21-1304, which established a unified early childhood system in Colorado, created the department of early childhood and was signed into law by Governor Polis. 

The report has been submitted to the Governor and the General Assembly. It follows a report approved in November 2021 to guide the new Department of Early Childhood.

Moving forward, the Governor’s early childhood transition team will lead the implementation of these recommendations, along with the approved recommendations for the new Department of Early Childhood. The team will continue to seek guidance and support from agency leadership, experts in the field, and a diverse range of stakeholders across the state. All information about this process, including opportunities for stakeholder engagement, will soon be made available.

Read the Executive Summary