Newly Released Census Data Show Colorado’s High Rate of Child Poverty Persists, but Continued Progress on Getting Kids Insured

Colorado’s child poverty rate was higher in 2012 than during the worst years of the Great Recession, according to data from the American Community Survey released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The new data show that in 2012, 18 percent of all Colorado kids were living in poverty, up from 15 percent in 2008. Nearly 224,000 children across the state were living in poverty last year, defined as an annual income at or below $23,050 for a family of four. Since 2000, Colorado has seen the number of children living in poverty more than double, increasing at the third-fastest rate in the nation. Median household income in Colorado also continued to stagnate, with little change from 2011 to 2012. Since 2008, Colorado’s median household income has declined from just over $61,000 to $56,765.

These new data show that despite some indications that our economy is in recovery, economic security remains out of reach for many of Colorado’s low- and middle-income families. Meanwhile, Congress continues to debate cuts to programs that are critical to thousands of Colorado children, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps). Other important programs like Head Start and Early Head Start are feeling the effects of funding cuts from the sequester that went into effect earlier this year.

Despite the increase in child poverty, Colorado continues to make steady progress on getting more children insured. The newly released data show that 8.8 percent of Colorado kids were uninsured in 2012, down from 14 percent in 2008. Nationally, 7 percent of all children lacked health insurance in 2012.

Capitol Update – April 5, 2013

  • Modernizing Colorado’s School Finance Act: On Tuesday, the Senate approved Senate Bill 13-213 (Johnston & Heath/Hamner) on a 20-15 vote. It moves to the House, with a first hearing in the House Education Committee scheduled for April 15 in the Old Supreme Court Chambers. The bill would drive equity and innovation into the system that funds all public school students. Thank you to everyone who contacted Senators to urge them to approve this landmark modernization of our school financing system. Click here to read more.
  • Supplemental Online Education Services: Senate Bill 13-139 (Roberts/Coram) was approved by the House with a bipartisan 57-5 vote and goes to the governor for his signature. It will strengthen supplemental and online education services by driving both greater access and quality in our statewide supplemental online program.
  • Reauthorization of the Early Childhood & School Readiness Commission: House Bill 13-1007 (Peniston/Hudak) would renew and extend authorization of the Early Childhood and School Readiness Commission through 2018. The bill was approved by the House Appropriations Committee 8-5 and moves to the Legislative Council.
  • Improve Access to Childhood Immunizations: Senate Bill 13-222 (Aguilar/Ferrandino) seeks to improve access to childhood immunizations in Colorado by streamlining the financing and delivery of vaccines. The bill establishes a thoughtful and inclusive stakeholder process designed to deliver innovative strategies to maximize efficiency in the purchase and distribution of childhood vaccines. The bill was being heard in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee late Friday afternoon. Click here to read more about the bill. 

Early Childhood Leadership Commission Recognized For Three Years of Gains

In the three years since its formation, the Early Childhood Leadership Commission has made strides to close the achievement gap by helping children become ready for school, co-chairs of the commission reported Thursday. In a presentation to state leaders, commissioners said the gains were made possible through the promotion of high-quality early childhood programs, supporting and building a strong early childhood workforce and increasing access by families to early childhood programs through the establishment of the state Office of Early Childhood.

Gov. John Hickenlooper applauded the work: “If you look at all the investments we make at all the different levels, I would argue that there is nothing that creates a greater yield than making sure that high-quality early childhood education gets to the kids that need it most.”

The commission presented its annual report to the governor, Colorado Senate and House committees of education, the House Public Care and Human Services Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The three co-chairs spoke on behalf of the commission: Pat Hamill, Chairman and CEO of Oakwood Homes; Reggie Bicha, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services; and Anna Jo Haynes, President Emeritus of Mile High Montessori. The commission’s parent representative, Alicia Wager, also participated. Click here to read the full 2013 Annual Report of the Early Childhood Leadership.

One Book 4 Colorado Promotes Early Literacy

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia this week announced the launch of the public book selection process for this year’s One Book 4 Colorado program. More than 70,000 copies of the chosen book will be distributed in mid-May to children across Colorado. The book will be available in both English and Spanish and will be accessible to children with disabilities. Lt. Gov. Garcia said the program “puts books in the hands of children and helps inspire a culture of reading in their homes.” Providing young children with access to books promotes early literacy and helps families serve as their children’s first and most important teachers.

Coloradans of all ages can get involved by voting for this year’s book selection through Jan. 31. To learn more about One Book 4 Colorado and vote for your favorite book, visit One Book 4 Colorado.

KidsFlash Fast Fact – Jan. 18, 2013

According to the Colorado Child Health Survey, nine out of 10 Colorado families with children between the ages of 1 and 5 years old read to their children at least three days per week. Reading aloud to children is one of the best activities to stimulate the development of language and cognitive skills that are critical to early literacy. To find county-specific data on the percent of families reading aloud to their young children, please visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center.

State Board of Education Approves School Readiness Assessment Policy

The Colorado State Board of Education voted unanimously this week to adopt a school readiness assessment policy for Colorado’s public school system. This action is in response to requirements set forth in the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4K), a 2008 law that established a road map for Colorado to achieve preschool to postsecondary alignment within its K-12 education system. According to the law, school readiness assessments must be implemented statewide for all kindergarten students beginning in the fall of 2013, and must assess children on the multiple domains of school readiness including physical well-being and motor development, social and emotional development, language and comprehension development, and cognition and general knowledge. Teaching Strategies GOLD was the first and only school readiness assessment system to gain unanimous State Board approval, however, the policy left open the possibility for the Board to consider and approve additional assessment systems at a later date should they be demonstrated to fulfill all CAP4K requirements. For more information, see this week’s CDE press release.

State Board of Education Reviews School Readiness Assessment for Kindergartners

This week, the Colorado Children’s Campaign urged board members to adopt a single assessment to fulfill the state’s requirement identified in statute through legislation passed in 2008, the Colorado Acheivement Plan for Kids (CAP4K). The board will make a final decision at its Dec. 5 and 6 meeting.

Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4K) is a 2008 law that established a road map for Colorado to achieve preschool to postsecondary alignment within its K-12 education system. According to the law, the new school readiness assessment must be implemented statewide for all kindergarten students beginning in the fall of 2013, and must assess children on the multiple domains of school readiness, including physical well-being and motor development, social and emotional development, language and comprehension development, and cognition and general knowledge.

This week, the Colorado Department of Education recommended Colorado’s school readiness assessment policy include a menu of assessments. However, Teaching Strategies GOLD is currently the only school readiness assessment being considered that meets the CAP4K requirements. Teaching Strategies GOLD is likely to be adopted as the first assessment in the menu until two other assessments under review by the education department (High Scope COR and Desired Results Developmental Profile) are found to be reliable and valid through technical evaluations expected within the next year.

The State Board of Education is considering whether to adopt a single readiness assessment to evaluate Colorado kindergarteners, or to approve of a menu of assessments from which districts could choose.

Thank you to all who responded to our action alert last week that urged the State Board to adopt a single school readiness assessment this year. Stay tuned to KidsFlash in December for more information.

KidsFlash Fast Fact – Enrollment in Full Day Kindergarten

In the 2011-2012 school year, 67 percent of Colorado kindergarteners (approximately 44,500 kids) were enrolled in a full-day kindergarten program. Quality, full-day kindergarten programs help young children continue the academic and social gains they began in preschool.  Availability of full-day kindergarten varies widely across Colorado, with some counties serving all kindergarteners in full-day programs and others only offering half-day programs to all children. To find data on the percent of children in your county enrolled in full-day kindergarten, please visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center.

Fast Fact – Colorado Preschool Program Slots

In the 2011-12 school year, there were 20,160 slots 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 has been demonstrated to boost school readiness among vulnerable children.  To find data on the number of CPP slots in your county or school district, please visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center.