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Building a Stronger Early Childhood System

Early Childhood Governance

In Colorado, early childhood programs used to exist across multiple state agencies with various eligibility requirements and funding streams. This fragmentation made it incredibly difficult for parents and providers to navigate these programs, threatening both quality and accessibility for thousands of kids. Thanks to the visionary work of Colorado’s early childhood community, the state has begun a process to transform our early childhood system into something that better serves children, families, early childhood program providers across all settings, and communities across the state. 

In the spring of 2021, the passage of House Bill 21-1304 gave Colorado the monumental opportunity to establish a cabinet-level Department of Early Childhood based on a robust community-informed transition process. Months of deep stakeholder engagement followed, with more than 130 meetings that included parents, families, members of the early childhood workforce, providers, school districts, counties, and advocates. In January 2022, the Early Childhood Leadership Commission (ECLC) unanimously approved recommendations regarding the design of the new state agency and implementation of universal preschool.  

Thanks to thousands of Coloradans across the state, to Governor Polis’ and our General Assembly’s transformative leadership, House Bill 22-1295 passed with bipartisan support in the spring of 2022, codifying the unanimous recommendations of the Early Childhood Leadership Commission. HB 22-1295 ensures:  

  • Effective Governance: Integrates programs that impact young children and their families under one department- the newly created Colorado Department of Early Childhood- to provide a seamless experience for families, while ensuring that families have an authentic voice in the governance of the department.  
  • Universal Access and Equity: Provides universal access to a range of high-quality preschool options, including school and community-based programs, while also prioritizing additional resources for low-income and at-risk children.  
  • Family-Centered Focus: Ensures families can easily navigate family support programs as well as childcare and preschool applications, enrollment, and payments 

Moving forward, early childhood in Colorado will be led by the Department of Early Childhood with the support of a strong cohort of local coordinating organizations (LCOs). While collaborating with the state and local communities, LCOs will be charged with supporting increased access and equitable delivery of early childhood programs in their local communities. The Children’s Campaign is very supportive of the vision for the Department of Early Childhood and is committed to strong partnership moving forward to ensure that early childhood programs are streamlined, and that Universal Preschool programming is accessible to and beneficial for Colorado families.

For more information on early childhood in Colorado, please contact the Children’s Campaign’s Director of Early Childhood Initiatives, Melissa Mares, at melissa@coloradokids.org

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