Early Childhood and School Readiness Commission advances four bills unanimously
Colorado’s Interim Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission met for the final time this year on Thursday and unanimously advanced four pieces of legislation. After three intensive meetings in July, August, and September where legislators heard about different facets of the early childhood system in Colorado, the Commission saw policy opportunities in four areas. Specifically, the interim commission advanced bills to better support the early care and education workforce, strategies to increase access to information on school readiness and becoming licensed, investments in improving quality, and supporting early childhood mental health. Here they are in a nutshell:
- Bill 1 stems from strategies the Children’s Campaign has been exploring in partnership with the Governor’s Office, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, and more than sixty other partners regarding education and career pathways to support the early childhood education workforce. We know demand for early childhood educators and directors is expected to increase by nearly 20% over the next 10 years. That is faster anticipated growth than for K-12 educators. Despite anticipated growing demand, Colorado is already facing a shortage of qualified early childhood educators. In a statewide analysis of the early care and education sector, more than 70% of child care center directors report a top challenge to be finding qualified staff, with an average of 2.5 months to fill open positions. The bill has three major provisions: (1) Streamlining the qualification pathways to the classroom for aspiring early childhood educators, (2) Establishing a scholarship and grant program to recruit and retain early childhood educators, and (3) Establishing an apprenticeship program for early childhood educators.
- Bill 2 is designed to increase public and caregiver awareness of how to best support children’s health development and put them on a path to school readiness. It increases access to supports for formal and informal caregivers, including helping those who are interested understand the path to becoming licensed providers of care.
- Bill 3 expands access to quality improvement funding to support providers across the five levels of our quality rating and improvement system, Colorado Shines, from Level 1 to Level 5 in accessing supports to offer quality early learning environments.
- Bill 4 is designed to build on Colorado’s strong history of providing early childhood mental health consultation that supports early care and education professionals in addressing children’s social and emotional development. Despite Colorado’s leadership on early childhood mental health consultation, we have lacked a policy infrastructure to support and sustain the needed growth in the program. With leadership from Mental Health Colorado, Children’s Hospital Colorado, and the Colorado Children’s Campaign, policymakers have advanced a set of proposals to improve access to consultation services across a variety of settings and establish the quality and professional development components necessary to ensure effective implementation of earl childhood mental health consultation across the state.
The Children’s Campaign provided testimony to the committee throughout the interim process and is excited to see such strong momentum for a variety of aspects of the state’s early childhood system. All four proposals received unanimous support from the bipartisan group of lawmakers and now advance for further review on November 15th by Legislative Council the bipartisan group of lawmakers responsible for reviewing the scope of work interim committees have undertaken. If Legislative Council approves these bills, they will be introduced at the start of the 2020 legislative session in January and will need to make their way through the full legislative process by the end of the session in May. The Children’s Campaign looks forward to continuing to solicit input and advocating for improvements to these preliminary proposals and, ultimately, advocating for the investments and policy changes needed to support the early learning and developmental needs of young children.