Ensuring School Readiness with High-Quality Preschool and Full-Day Kindergarten
Colorado’s historic expansion of full-day kindergarten was a huge step forward for young children in our state. Studies have consistently found benefits associated with attending full-day kindergarten programs, including lower chances of being held back in later grades and larger gains in reading and math compared to children in half-day programs. The research is also clear, however, that we can’t wait until a child walks into their first day of kindergarten to begin investing in their learning. Developmental gaps along the lines of income, race and ethnicity emerge long before children walk through the kindergarten classroom door, underscoring the importance of investing in high-quality learning opportunities like preschool during the earliest years of life.
High-quality preschool programs yield lifelong benefits for the children, and for society as a whole. Despite the robust research base on the positive impacts of preschool participation, access to preschool across the state remains limited. Prior to the pandemic, only about half of all 3- and 4-year-olds in Colorado were enrolled in any type of preschool. Recent investments in the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) are slowly expanding access, but the National Institute for Early Education Research estimates that CPP was only able to serve 24% of all 4-year-olds in Colorado. Overall, in the 2019-2020 school year, CPP served 23,474 children ages 3 and 4.
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.
HB 21-1222 increases access to child care by reducing burdensome regulations that family child care homes face by requiring local regulatory entities to treat licensed family child care providers as residences for regulatory purposes like zoning, fire, and building codes.
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 20-1053 helps recruit and retain early childhood educators and support early childhood mental health.
Proposition EE and HB 20-1427 was the most successful tax measure since TABOR, earning the support of Colorado voters by a 2 to 1 margin to fund part-day, universal, voluntary preschool for all 4-year-olds in the state beginning in fall of 2023.
HB 19-1262 provides funding for full-day kindergarten for any Colorado family that chooses it, as well as increases access to the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) by more than 5,200 slots, the single largest year-over-year expansion of preschool in the history of the state.
HB 19-1122 reduces unnecessary out-of-school suspension and expulsion of young children from school.