Fast Fact – Feb. 6, 2015

For the 2014-2015 school year, the legislature authorized 20,160 traditional slots for the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP). However, the legislature also approved additional CPP slots through an initiative called Early Childhood At-Risk Enhancement, or ECARE. The ECARE expansion included 8,200 additional half-day slots that districts can use flexibly to meet their needs. Districts that receive ECARE grants may use the slots for a half-day of preschool through CPP, combine two ECARE slots for a full day of preschool or use them to add the second half of the day for at-risk kindergartners who would otherwise be in half-day programs. To find the number of CPP slots in your county or school district, please visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center.

Capitol Update – Other Action This Week

Free Or Reduced-cost Lunch Five Days All Schools: SB 15-054 (Donovan)—Leslie Colwell, Vice President of Education Initiatives, provided informational testimony about the challenges of serving the needs of hungry students in school districts that operate on a 4-day-week schedule. The bill was postponed indefinitely. We look forward to working with Senator Donovan in the future on efforts to ensure children in schools across Colorado get the nutrition they need to be healthy and prepared to learn.

Early Childhood Educator Development Scholarships: HB 15-1001 (Pettersen & Garnett/Todd)—The Children’s Campaign supported an amendment to improve the design of the scholarship alignment proposal and Bill Jaeger, Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives, testified in support of this bill. “The return on investment we get from starting early depends on a key variable—quality,” Jaeger said.  “Early childhood educators, from infant and toddler caregivers to pre-K teachers, are the key element of quality.”  The bill was amended and passed on to the Appropriations Committee 6-5. Click here to read more.

Increasing Number Of CO Preschool Program Students: HB 1024 (Pettersen/Kefalas & Todd)—Bill Jaeger testified in support of this important investment in promoting children’s school readiness: “We know that, absent high-quality early learning experiences, achievement gaps develop early and, as our state has seen, are very difficult to close.” In Colorado, less than half of all children attend preschool and that number is roughly 2 out of 3 children for middle and upper income families, but closer to 1 in 3 for children in lower income families.  The bill passed on to the Appropriations Committee 6 -5. Click here to read more.

Funding For Full-day Kindergarten: HB 15-1020 (Wilson)—This bill passed out of the House Education committee and on to Appropriations on a strong, bipartisan 10 to 1 vote. Bill Jaeger testified in support of the bill, recognizing that even though the state only covers about a half day of the cost of kindergarten, “Nearly all Colorado children attend kindergarten and 74 percent of all enrolled kindergarteners are in a full day this year. This is up from just 40 percent in 2007 and just 70 percent in 2013. Demand has increased dramatically for full-day kindergarten during the past seven years and has jumped again in the past year.” Finding a way to respond to this growing demand is an important part of improving outcomes for all Colorado children.

Capitol Update – Colorado Preschool Program Expansion

A bill to expand the Colorado Preschool Program (HB 15-1024, Pettersen/Kefalas & Todd) by 3,000 new slots will be heard in the House Education Committee at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 26. CPP has been around since 1988 and has a proven track record of producing long-term benefits for some of Colorado’s youngest and most vulnerable learners. At-risk children who participate in CPP outperform peers who do not participate in reading, writing, math, and science and these effects persist into elementary, middle school, and beyond.

Yet, in Colorado, more than 11,000 at-risk and eligible 4-year-olds do not have access to preschool of any kind. Children who attend high-quality preschool and half-day kindergarten perform better in several areas, including third grade reading scores, than those who attend full-day kindergarten alone. This effect is strongest for children from at-risk backgrounds and especially low-income families and ELL students. But only 21 percent of 4-year-olds and 7 percent of 3-year-olds are enrolled in our state preschool program.

Compared to national leaders like Florida, Oklahoma, Vermont, West Virginia, Georgia, Iowa and Texas we are lagging and now rank 38th out of 40 states with state-funded preschool programs. Heading off gaps in academic readiness before they grow is one of our best investments and is far less costly than remediating later.  The Children’s Campaign looks forward to supporting pre-K expansion as one of our best strategies to putting children on a path to school readiness and life success.


Colorado Pre-K Shows Uneven Progress in National Report

The number of kids enrolled in preschool nationally declined in the 2012-2013 school year as states felt the effects of the Great Recession, according to a new report by the National Institute for Early Education Research. While total funding was up slightly, more than half of states with programs continued to make cuts, the “2013 State of Preschool” found.

Colorado mirrored the national trends, with uneven progress in the Colorado Preschool Program in the areas of access, resources and quality. The state improved slightly from 38th to 37th among 41 states with pre-k for state spending per child. In terms of quality, the program meets six out of 10 benchmarks, an improvement from only meeting 4 a decade ago. We lost ground in providing access, falling from 20th to 22nd with only one in five 4-year-olds enrolled in the program for the 2012-2013 school year. As of this school year, however, Colorado has started moving in the right direction.

During the past two legislative sessions, Colorado has bucked national trends by increasing its investment in preschool. In 2013-14, 3,200 new early learning slots were added statewide with about half going to preschool and half to full-day kindergarten. And this legislative session, another 5,000 new slots were approved and will expand access in the coming school year. These are exciting trends that are moving Colorado forward on quality preschool. Click here to read the full report.

Capitol Update – Jan. 31, 2014

  • Early Childhood Quality Incentive Program: HB 1076 (Peniston & Duran/Zenzinger) was approved 7-5 by the House Education Committee and will be sent to the Appropriations Committee for consideration. The proposal would help ensure children served through the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) are in a high quality early learning setting.  By providing school district and community-based CPP sites with the resources they need to obtain quality ratings and investing in innovative ways to support young children, HB 1076 would support quality improvement efforts around the state. The Children’s Campaign testified in support of this legislation because research clearly shows that investments in quality result in the most dramatic increases in children’s school readiness and later academic success.  The disparity in access to quality early learning experiences is one of the strongest contributors to our state’s achievement gap. Supporting quality in preschool is one of our best tools for ensuring children get a strong start in life.
  • Delay in implementation of new education standards and assessments: SB 136 (Marble/Saine) was introduced this week. In 2008, Coloradans recognized the need for more rigorous academic standards for all students and the legislature passed the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4K), which identified new content standards and aligned assessments to better support all kids and set a consistent and high bar for performance.  The standards were implemented this year, yet some legislators want to stop our progress and delay the work that’s already taking place in classrooms across Colorado.  The Children’s Campaign is strongly opposed to SB 136, because we know any delay to the implementation of these standards is a delay that our kids cannot afford.

Federal “Strong Start” Legislation Would Improve Early Learning Access

Wednesday was an exciting day for early learning advocates around the country. A bipartisan group of legislators introduced the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act.” The proposal is a strong statement about the importance of early learning and development for all children, birth through preschool. The act would support state and federal partnerships to improve access to high quality preschool and early learning opportunities for children.

pre-K billChild at work at Educare Denver at Clayton Early Learning

Specifically, it would provide matching grants to states to invest in expanding both access to and the quality of services for 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. States would also be able to use funds to expand preschool services, improve the quality of programs and set aside a portion of funds to target grants for high quality early care and education for infants and toddlers. In addition, a separate set of grants would ensure that more children birth through age 3 would have access to quality early learning experiences.

Given Colorado’s extensive waiting list for the Colorado Preschool Program and the high cost of quality child care and preschool that many families face, the proposal would be a welcome step forward to ensure all children enter kindergarten ready to learn. According to a bipartisan poll conducted earlier this year, 70 percent of Americans support a plan to help states and local communities provide better early childhood education programs to children from birth to age five—and want Congress to act now. We look forward to monitoring the progress of this proposal in the coming months.

Early Childhood Advocates Line Up in Support of the Colorado Commits to Kids Ballot Initiative

Dozens of parents, educators and advocates added their names to the list of supporters for the Colorado Commits to Kids ballot initiative because of the significant investment it makes in early childhood. Access to consistent, high-quality early learning experiences can set children on a path to high school graduation and life success. Colorado has an increasing number of children who need this access. Currently, the state’s total spending on preschool ranks 38th out of 40 states that have a state preschool program. Further limiting access to quality early learning, Colorado only funds just more than a half-day of kindergarten and relies on individual parents and/or taxpayers in each school district to cover the remaining cost of full-day kindergarten. The Colorado Commits to Kids ballot initiative would provide the largest single investment in early childhood in the history of the state. It would:

  • Remove the cap on seats in the Colorado Preschool Program, opening up access to an estimated 25,500 at-risk 3- and 4-year olds across the state.
  • Fully fund full-day kindergarten for every family that wants it, making Colorado only the 11th state in the country to offer tuition-free, full-day kindergarten.

With these tremendous investments in early learning, it is no surprise that early childhood supporters are lining up to endorse the ballot initiative. Leading voices such as Mile High United Way, Qualistar Colorado, the Early Childhood Education Association of Colorado, the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children, Clayton Early Learning, Executives Partnering to Invest in Children and the Early Childhood Summit have joined with many others to support passage of the ballot measure. If you would like to see a full list of endorsements or to add your name or your organization’s name to the list of supporters, please visit the Colorado Commits to Kids website.

KidsFlash Fast Fact – Aug. 30, 2013

The Colorado legislature authorized 20,160 slots in the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) for the 2012-2013 school year. Between 2009-2010 and 2012-2013, the number of CPP slots remained flat. With these slots, CPP has the capacity to serve only 21 percent of all 4-year-olds in Colorado and 6 percent of 3-year-olds. To find data on the number of CPP slots allocated to your county or school district, please visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center.

KidsFlash Fast Fact – Feb. 15, 2013

In the 2011-2012 school year, 20,160 Colorado children were enrolled in the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP). The number of CPP slots is capped by the legislature and has remained flat for the past three school years. CPP provides high-quality preschool free of charge, and research shows it boosts the academic achievement of at-risk children who participate. To find data on the number of authorized CPP slots in your county, please visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center.

School Finance Technical Advisory Group Discusses Early Childhood and Revenue

Early childhood education and revenue were the topics discussed in this week’s meeting of the school finance technical advisory group. Children’s Campaign President and CEO Chris Watney emphasized to the group that strengthening preschool and kindergarten services and the need for adequate funding are not wish list items. Rather, they are necessary in building an education system that ensures all children get the education they deserve.

Representatives from the Colorado Department of Education presented the latest results from the Colorado Preschool Program and shared the lasting effects the program has on narrowing achievement gaps and ensuring better academic outcomes for the children it serves. Jennifer Landrum, Children’s Campaign Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives, highlighted the long-term returns realized when kids get the care they need when they need it. They are less likely to require more costly services later in their schooling and have better chances at long-term success through early interventions.

State Sen. Mike Johnston asked the group to prioritize under-supported components of the existing school finance system in order to look at what is possible with new revenue combined with reforms. A wrap-up meeting will be scheduled in the coming weeks as we move closer to producing legislation that is true to the recommendations of the School Finance Partnership.