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 who participate and for society as a whole. Despite the robust research base on the positive impacts of preschool participation, access to preschool remains limited across the state. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, just half of all 3- and 4-year-olds in Colorado were enrolled in any type of preschool between 2016 and 2018—only a slight improvement from 47 percent nearly a decade earlier. Recent investments in the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) are slowly expanding access, but the Colorado Department of Education estimates that CPP was only able to serve 40 percent of eligible children in 2018-2019.
Recent Policy Successes
House Bill 18-1379: Via the School Finance Act, expands access to the Early Childhood At-Risk Enhancement (ECARE) program in the Colorado Preschool Program by 1,000 slots.
House Bill 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.
House Bill 20-1053 helps recruit and retain early childhood educators and support early childhood mental health.
Senate Bill 17-103 adds a focus on early learning and preschool through third grade strategies for schools and districts that are struggling to ensure all children are on track for success.
House Bill 19-1122 reduces unnecessary out-of-school suspension and expulsion of young children from school.
House Bill 20-1427 refers a question to votes in November to raise taxes on nicotine products to fill budget deficits caused by the pandemic, and also establishes a universal preschool program that targets the greatest resources to those with the most barriers.