DENVER (Oct. 8, 2021) — Today, the State of Colorado released the first draft of a plan to establish the Department of Early Childhood that will align and strengthen the state’s early childhood care and education services and programs, including the voter-approved, voluntary, universal preschool program. The draft Department of Early Childhood Transition Plan, which highlights recommendations for the department’s structure and governance, is a requirement of House Bill 21-1304 as signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis.
A statewide listening tour will be hosted Oct. 11-15 to share the draft plan and gather public feedback to inform the future of early childhood care and education, including the universal preschool program. The tour will include two virtual events and nine in-person events across the state. The tour is hosted by the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, the Colorado Department of Human Services, the Colorado Department of Education, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in partnership with the Office of the Governor. Additional public comment is requested through Oct. 21, and can be made via this form.
“This agency will efficiently implement Colorado’s voter-approved universal free preschool program, giving kids a strong start and saving families money,” said Polis. “Colorado’s kids deserve every opportunity to thrive and this investment will continue to ensure our state becomes an even better and more affordable place to live, work and have a family.”
Investing in early childhood is essential to supporting working families, child development, and a prosperous economy. In the first few years of life, more than 1 million new brain connections form every second. The window from birth to age 5 is critical in a child’s development, as the experiences children have in the first five years of their life lay the foundation for their future. Research shows when those experiences are high quality, children perform better in school, graduate on time, and have healthy and successful adult lives.
The opportunity to have accessible and high-quality care and learning experiences for children also empowers caregivers — especially women — to remain in and re-enter the workforce, advance skills, and earn income, which boosts the economy as a whole.
The creation of a Department of Early Childhood is rooted in Colorado’s longstanding commitment to early childhood care and education. Families with young children in Colorado continue to face challenges. Of the nearly 322,400 children under 5 in Colorado in 2019, an estimated 35,000 are living in poverty. The new department will help families more easily and equitably access early childhood services, support the early childhood workforce, position the universal preschool program to increase services for low-income children and simultaneously expand access to all preschool-age children, place an early childhood champion in the governor’s Cabinet, align efforts and funding to improve quality early care and education, and define what high-quality, age-appropriate early care and education looks like for teachers and children.
Please view the draft transition plan for the new department here. Stakeholders can offer written feedback on the draft plan through an online public form until Oct. 21. More information can be found on the CDHS website or the Early Childhood website.
The Early Childhood Leadership Commission (ECLC) is tasked with submitting a report to the governor and the legislature outlining detailed plans to transition to the new department and to implement the voluntary universal preschool program. The transition plan is due November 2021, and recommendations for universal voluntary preschool are due January 2022.
In November 2020, Colorado voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative (Proposition EE) to increase the state tax on tobacco, establish a nicotine products tax, and direct some of the funding to a voluntary universal preschool program. Under the program, by July 2023, all Colorado families, regardless of income, will have the opportunity to access 10 hours of high-quality early care and education per week, per child, in a mixed delivery system, in the year prior to the child entering kindergarten.
Deputy Director of Communications