2020 Legislative Session Recap for Early Childhood

Written by: Bill Jaeger
Date Posted: July 10, 2020

Colorado’s General Assembly returned from its pandemic recess in May, facing a $3.3 billion hole in the state’s General Fund (about 25% of the overall budget). As such, alongside a coalition of partners, we worked to navigate budget cuts, protect key investments, and advocate for policy changes to support children and families throughout the abbreviated legislative session. Though there were many important priorities that were protected this session, Colorado’s families will continue to need vocal champions in November and especially in the several years to come, because without an influx of new revenue, budget cuts are likely to be even larger in the future.

We are grateful to advocate for children and families alongside a coalition of statewide partners from the early childhood sector, with champions for early childhood in the General Assembly, and with leadership from Governor Polis. Here’s a summary of the progress and what work remains:

New Legislation

HB 20-1427: Cigarette Tobacco and Nicotine Products Tax to Support Health and Early Childhood Education  Programs

This bill refers a measure to voters on this year’s November ballot that would raise taxes on cigarettes, tobacco and, for the first time, apply a tax on nicotine vaping products, helping address Colorado’s highest-in-the-nation youth vaping rate. In the first two and a half years, the resulting revenue would provide relief to state budget cuts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including investments in rural schools, housing and the State Education Fund. After that initial period, the revenue would be devoted to nicotine education and cessation programs and toward giving every child in Colorado access to early childhood education. From year one forward, funding would also be provided to existing recipients of Amendment 35 revenue to offset decreased revenue the results from the new tax.

This expansion of preschool would give every four-year-old in Colorado access to ten hours per week of free, voluntary preschool, with more support available for low income students or students with risk factors affecting their kindergarten readiness. Additional revenue would be prioritized to serve low income students and those students at risk of entering kindergarten without being school-ready. This tax revenue would fund a first-in-the-nation approach to preschool that is both universal and targeted, setting up all Colorado kids and families for success.  Read more about this bill and its journey through the legislature, here.

HB 20-1053: Supports for Early Childhood Educator Workforce

House Bill 20-1006 and House Bill 20-1016 were amended into House Bill 20-1053 in order to create a single, comprehensive piece of legislation to support Colorado’s early childhood sector. Unfortunately, due to the deficit, the bills were amended to take out a number of the items that drove costs, such as programs offering apprenticeships, scholarships and grants to educators. Legislators kept a number of the original items in the bill at no cost to the state, such as: streamlining paperwork burdens, aligning credentialing systems, codifying a program of early childhood mental health consultation, providing flexibility to support providers with technical assistance and quality funding, and supporting alternative pathways to the classroom.  Unfortunately, the necessary financial investment in the early childhood sector did not come from this legislation, but a statutory framework is now set up to be able to invest in early childhood in the future.

HB 20-1347: Licensure Exemption for Family Child Care Homes
This bill extends the licensure exemption for providers to care for no more than four unrelated children until 2026. It also adds specific requirements for the providers, including required notification of the parents of children in care that the caregiver is not licensed and that the state has not verified the health and safety of the setting or performed background checks on anyone in the residence, reporting by the state regarding complaints filed against those claiming this exemption as well as cease-and-desist orders for those operating under these exemptions, and posting of information for these providers on pathways to becoming licensed.

SB 20-126: Allow Home Child Care in Homeowners’ Association Community

This bill limits the grounds under which a Homeowners’ Association Community can restrict the operation of family child care, removing significant barriers for home child care providers interested in serving children in HOA communities.

SB 20-163: School Entry Immunization

This bill requires a standardized form and submission process for those taking a nonmedical immunization exemption. It also clarifies that parents may take medical or nonmedical exemption. Those claiming a nonmedical exemption will need to submit a physician-signed certificate or a certificate of completion of an online education module. The legislation also requires schools to publish immunization and exemption rates and ensures providers utilize the state’s immunization tracking system.

SB 20-185: The Colorado Imagination Library Program

This bill requires, subject to available funding, the state librarian in to contract with a Colorado nonprofit organization for the creation and operation of the Colorado Imagination Library program. The Imagination Library program provides children birth to 5 years old with access to books on a monthly basis at no cost to families.

SB 20-029: Cost of Living Adjustment for Colorado Works Program

This bill allocates up to $10M from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Long-term Reserve to provide every family receiving Basic Cash Assistance via TANF with a one-time payment of $500 to help families through this crisis.

Legislation that failed

These bills did not pass this year, primarily due to the cost associated with the legislation.

HB 20-1138: Public Real Property Index

The bill would have required each state agency, institute of higher education, and local government to provide the state architect with information (that would be publicly posted) regarding real usable real property. The list of useable real property could have helped child care providers, who already survive on very thin margins, locate affordable and available real estate to expand or establish their businesses.

HB 20-1043: Income Tax Credit for Early Childhood Education Fix

The bill would have corrected a drafting error affecting the effective date of HB 19-1005, which would have created an income tax credit for most early childhood educators. This income tax credit was not established during this legislative session.

SB 20-144: Home Visiting Expansion Grant Program

The bill would have created a grant program to fund nationally recognized, evidence-based home visiting models throughout the state.

Priorities Protected, for now

  • Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP): We were able to secure a modest increase of $5 million in both General Fund and Federal Fund spending authority to support our child care subsidy program. This was made possible by telling the story of how vital child care has been to our emergency response and will be to our economic recovery.
  • Children’s Basic Health Plan (CHP+): The Joint Budget Committee rejected any cuts to CHP+.
  • Colorado Preschool Program (CPP): There were no changes to the number of slots funded. The per pupil expenditures in CPP are tied to our School Finance Act, so cuts to K-12 education mean that the per pupil expenditures (on average) will be slightly reduced
  • Full-day kindergarten: No changes to full-day kindergarten funding.

Concerning cuts

The following programs received a cut in this year (FY19-20) or next year’s (FY20-21) budget. These programs will likely need continued support and advocacy to be able to rebuild and recover in the years ahead. Many more programs, including home visiting, saw flat funding so, given rising costs and demands, will struggle to respond adequately without additional resources.

  • Early Intervention: Early Intervention did not receive a cut to funding this year. However, funding will be reduced by $1.7M in General Fund for FY20-21, eliminating funding for next year’s projected caseload growth.
  • Family Resource Centers: The Joint Budget Committee reduced line item by $528,000 from $1.3M, but kept additional funding
  • Tony Grampsas Youth Services: The proposed $1.5M cut was reduced to a cut of $750,000.
  • Child support pass-through policy for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: Funding was reduced by $321,000. A $321,000 general fund appropriation level will allow the program to remain solvent and provide support to some the most vulnerable families in Colorado.

While we are incredibly grateful for the progress made and investments in early childhood that were protected this session, we are very concerned about next year’s state budget. Without adding additional revenue, cuts to programs that serve children and families are likely to grow. Programs that were protected this year, such as the Colorado Preschool Program or Full Day Kindergarten, could be at risk next year. We will need to continue to advocate to ensure Colorado’s investments in children and families are protected in the years to come.

Bill Jaeger

About Bill Jaeger

Bill Jaeger, Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives at the Children's Campaign, has spent the past decade teaching, studying, and working on issues in public education and public policy. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and a master’s in education from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education before working as a public school teacher and administrator in the greater Hartford, Connecticut area for several years. Bill also holds master’s degrees in public policy and political science and worked in several positions in the non-profit sector prior to joining the Colorado Children’s Campaign as Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives. Bill is a graduate of Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs and enjoys spending time in the mountains with his wife, son, daughter, and golden retriever.