Saving People Money & Moving Colorado Forward: Governor Polis Signs Free Universal Preschool Into Law

Monday, April 25, 2022

Colorado families on average will see historic savings up to $4,300 per year with free universal preschool program starting in the 2023-24 school year

Early Childhood Department creates one-stop shop for early childhood programs, committed to breaking down barriers to accessing education, making early childhood system easier to navigate, bolsters highly skilled workforce

DENVER — Today, Governor Jared Polis joined state officials, bill sponsors, and parents and students to sign legislation creating the voter-approved universal preschool program in Colorado, and implementing the new, unified Department of Early Childhood, helping Colorado families save on average up to $4,300 every year. Last year, the legislature and Polis administration finalized plans for the Early Childhood Department to streamline the early childhood system, prepare our students for success, build a highly-skilled early childcare and education workforce, and give families economic freedom.

“Today, we’re taking another bold step forward in ensuring Colorado kids have access to free universal preschool. There’s no better investment than education which leads to a stronger, healthier and competitive workforce. Thanks to Speaker Garnett, President Fenberg, Senator Buckner and Rep. Sirota - dedicated early childhood education champions - families are going to save up $4,300 per year and our youngest students will be prepared for the success they deserve from the start,” said Governor Polis. 

The bipartisan HB22-1295 implements recommendations for the Department of Early Childhood to elevate early childhood education and ensures that early childhood care is easy to navigate for all Colorado families. The bipartisan legislation builds on HB21-1304, signed into law in 2021, which established the Department of Early Childhood and charged the agency with implementing universal preschool, improving education outcomes, and supporting families in expanding access to enriching early childhood experiences.

“Free universal preschool is a historic accomplishment that will help parents get back to work, save families money, and prepare our youngest learners for success,” said Speaker Alec Garnett, D-Denver. “As a dad of three young children, I know how important this is to families and how expensive child care has become for parents. Governor Polis, Representative Sirota, and so many others have made expanding and lowering the cost of early childhood education a top priority because we know it gives children the leg up they need to thrive, while at the same time, it boosts our economy, creates jobs and helps working families save money.”

“Universal preschool is officially coming to Colorado,” said Sen. President Steve Fenberg. “Quality early childhood education is critical to a child’s future success, and streamlining the process to increase availability and affordability will be just as beneficial to the parents of young children. This new law will make transformational changes for Colorado kids and their families well into the future. I’m so proud to see it across the finish line.”

“Decades of research has shown us that greater access to early childhood education leads to better outcomes for children all the way into adulthood,” said Rep. Emily Sirota, D-Denver. “Parents across our state spend too many hours trying to find a preschool option for their child. The Department of Early Childhood will be a one-stop shop where every family can go to easily access high quality early childhood education for their kids.”

“Access to child care not only supports critical early development and future educational outcomes but also the very well-being of families across our state,” said Sen. Janet Buckner. “As we work to move Colorado forward, this new law will directly benefit families across our state, saving people money and setting our future leaders up for success. I am so proud of the work that we’ve done to get to this point, and am excited to see how the new Department of Early Childhood will benefit Colorado’s youth for generations to come."

This legislation is the result of years of work and more than 130 meetings with leaders in the early childhood space, and implements the will of Colorado voters through Prop EE. The recommendations of the Transition Working Group are reflected in the legislation after receiving unanimous support from the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, establishing the Department of Early Childhood’s scope, mission, and framework to ensure smooth delivery of critical programs and services to Colorado children and families.

“We are moving forward today to make sure every child has access to early childhood education. After over 47 years, it’s amazing what we can accomplish and help teach each other when we work together. After all of these years, it was democracy in action — people from every facet of this diverse arena — saying we can do this, we are doing this, for the greater good. Today, we make Colorado a model for the rest of the country to follow,” said Anna Jo Haynes.