Building a Strong Early Childhood System

Pieces of Colorado’s early childhood system are scattered in several state departments. This limits communication between programs and complicates families’ interactions with services and support. We can better meet the needs of families by building a strong early childhood system in Colorado that aligns programs, allows for the blending of multiple financing streams, promotes the sharing and tracking of data, and establishes common performance outcomes. 

Proposition EE passed in 2020 with recommendation from Colorado’s Early Childhood Leadership Commission to create a new state agency for early childhood. In 2021, HB 21-1304 established a transition process to both create this new Department of Early Childhood effective July 1, 2022, and set universal pre-K on a path to implementation by fall of 2023. This momentous change will result in more streamlined, accessible early childhood programs that alleviate barriers to access currently faced by Colorado families and providers.  

By elevating early childhood to the importance that it deserves, Colorado can become a place where a supportive world of childhood experiences helps families and children on their path to kindergarten entry and beyond. The Children’s Campaign is actively involved in the transition process, working to ensure that that the new state agency is best prepared to meet the needs of all of Colorado’s children and families.  

a lady pushing a group of kids on a bike
03/21/2017 Denver, CO- Classrooms at Clayton Early Learning in Denver on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon)


Recent Policy Successes

HB 21-1304 consolidates various early childhood programs currently scattered across state agencies into the Colorado Department of Early Childhood. The bill initiates a community-informed process to unify early childhood services in the new department and requires a plan to implement voluntary universal preschool statewide in alignment with voter intent in Prop EE. 

SB 21-236 supports the early care and education workforce, as well as innovation in the early care and education sector, by creating and expanding several grant programs aimed at increasing child care capacity throughout the state. 

HB 21-137 makes investments in perinatal depression screens in Medicaid, early childhood mental health consultants, and school-based mental health professionals. 

HB 19-1005 established a new tax credit, tied to credential level, for early childhood educators working at qualified home and center-based programs. 

HB 19-1052 allows local communities to collaborate to establish special districts to provide early childhood education, health and family support services. 

SB 19-063 requires state leaders to develop a plan to address declining availability of infant care and family child care homes in Colorado.