Advocacy in 2015
EPIC’s Policy Committee is driven by our members, prioritizing the agenda for our organization’s advocacy. We consistently support the expansion of the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) and funding full day kindergarten for all Colorado children. In 2015, we highlight the power of public-private partnership for the benefit of early childhood. Colorado’s new Pay for Success contracting law and its under-utilized Child Care Contribution Tax Credit are at the forefront of EPIC’s advocacy work. Through public presentations, legislative testimony and printed opinion editorials, EPIC raises awareness of these important mechanisms to increase financial support for early childhood.

Pay for Success, House Bill 15-1317After two years of engagement around this unique funding opportunity, HB 15-1317 (Pay for Success Contracting) became law on May 20, 2015 with bipartisan support. Pay for Success contracts are designed to allow socially responsible private investors to fund evidence-based, prevention programs that have the potential to reduce government costs for remediation. If the contract goals are met, resulting in reduced government expenditures, the investor is paid. If the contract goals are not met, the government does not pay the investor. Research confirms the return on investment in early childhood development, making it a prime candidate for Pay for Success financing. After the passage of HB 15-1317, EPIC hosted a luncheon for over 60 policymakers and business leaders focused on Pay for Success which included state legislators and the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting. It is vitally important that quality, scientifically researched early childhood programs are identified as a state priority for this financing. EPIC aims to ensure that Pay for Success contracts are utilized to support the public-private investment in early childhood. 

Colorado Child Contribution Tax CreditEPIC business leaders have been involved in supporting CCTC since its re-authorization in 2009, including advocacy efforts to maintain and uphold the tax credit. In 2015, we have taken a leadership role in determining and clarifying corporate eligibility to make CCTC qualifying contributions. Additionally, we spearhead a coalition of business, community and government leaders with the goal of bringing taxpayer contributions through CCTC back to pre-recession levels. We are managing a robust public awareness campaign to remind taxpayers that CCTC benefits have been fully restored effective January 1, 2015 and to re-energize public support of child care for all children in Colorado. CCTC is a unique public-private partnership created in 1999 to provide financial support for child care. Monetary contributions made to qualified child care, early education and after-school programs are eligible for the state income tax credit. Taxpayers are incentivized to use CCTC through a Colorado income tax credit of up to 50% of the total contribution. In 2010, before legislative triggers were enacted on the tax credit, contributions to qualified programs were as high as $44 million ($22 million in tax credits). In 2012, contributions dipped to a low of $2 million ($1 million in tax credits).

Child Care from a Business PerspectiveAccess to quality child care is an important component of the development, retention and productivity of Colorado’s workforce. Throughout 2015, EPIC has researched the issues of access and affordability of infant and toddler child care for Colorado’s working families. Licensed child care in Colorado is more expensive than in-state tuition and fees at public four-year colleges. Child care is a significant expense for working families because employees with young children tend to be younger in age and less established in their careers, therefore having lower earning capacities. The lower earnings combined with the high cost of infant and toddler care result in a large percentage of working family income dedicated to child care, over 20% in many Colorado counties. This raises concern for family self-sufficiency throughout our State. The affordability and access of infant and toddler care for Colorado’s working families will continue to be a matter of keen interest to EPIC.


Advocacy in 2014
By the end of the 2014 legislative session, new investment of nearly  $60 million state dollars was designated to Colorado’s early care and learning system. These are important steps forward for Colorado’s kids and we were particularly pleased to have bipartisan support on all of the items below. Through effective partnerships we were able to see a number of key early learning priorities move forward this session. There is much work to be done to see these policy changes implemented, and even more to do to meet the great unmet need for our young children in this and other domains, but it was a productive session for Colorado's youngest children.

Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP), House Bill 14-1317
This legislation modernizes the CCCAP program and invests $9.9 million in expanding access to quality care so that families can rely on the affordable child care they need to work. The overhaul ensures that more of Colorado’s most vulnerable kids have access to stimulating experience that let them discover, explore and grow. CCCAP Eligibility and Authorization are now aligning, minimizing disruptions in child care for low-income families by ensuring that, except in very limited cases, CCCAP-eligible families are authorized for child care assistance for at least 12 months. And, a Cliff Effect Pilot was authorized, providing $1.2 million to help counties launch pilot programs to mitigate the impact of the “cliff effect,” when families lose child care support due to a modest increase in salary.

Student Success Act, House Bill 14-1292In their final form, the Student Success Act combined with the Annual School Finance Act (HB14-1298)bought down the negative factor by $110 million, authorized a $3million statewide financial transparency reporting system , increased funding for English Language Learners by $27.5 million, appropriated $18 million for early literacy programs, increased funding for charter school capital construction, added $2 million to support the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), and appropriated $17 million for an additional 5,000 E-Care slots to the Colorado Preschool Program to provide preschool and kindergarten for at-risk children.

Income Tax Credit for Child Care Expenses, House Bill 14-1072This income tax credit provides $5.4 million to ensure that working families earning less than $25,000 who have child care expenses are able to receive the same tax benefit that higher income families receive.

Advocacy in 2013
 School Finance Reform, Senate Bill 213Early childhood advocates have something to celebrate and fight for! During the 2013 legislative session, state legislators passed Senate Bill 213, modernizing the way we fund public education in Colorado. The bill strengthened the preschool to college pipeline by fully funding the Colorado Preschool Program, a groundbreaking first for our state. Additionally, the bill completely funds full day Kindergarten for families that chose it. Research tells us that investing early in our students who need it most will help all students reach their greatest potential.

Senate Bill 213 is the result of two years of work to modernize the outdated funding formula that supports Colorado's nearly 900,000 public school students. Convened by the Colorado Children's Campaign, a coalition came together in May, 2011, to develop the new funding formula. The School Finance Partnership, a broad coalition of diverse partners ranging from business leaders to the Colorado Education Association made the recommendations by full consensus and released formal recommendations in August, 2012, to see this comprehensive report, click here. The recommendations were then translated into policy by Senator Michael Johnston, who sat on the partnership. Senator Johnston, along with Senator Rollie Heath and Representative Millie Hamner, sponsored the landmark legislation that will overhaul the way we fund public education. To view the fact sheet on this bill, click here

Early Childhood Advocacy DayEarly childhood advocates, including parents, service providers and others, gathered at the Colorado State Capitol today to explore the latest issues in early childhood policy-making, learn new advocacy skills and reach out to lawmakers to ensure Colorado’s youngest children are at the forefront of their minds as they craft policy impacting the lives of children and families. Early Childhood Advocacy Day was hosted by EPIC, Colorado Children's Campaign and Clayton Early Learning to raise the voices of parents, caregivers and early childhood professionals. The event was also supported by 30 partner organizations.
 
Advocates helped spread the word about legislation that may impact early learning and development, including bills to align early childhood services, the potential for major investments in full-day kindergarten and quality pre-k through overhauling the school finance act, and getting more kids covered with health insurance by extending coverage to parents. The Colorado Legislature can have a big impact on early childhood development. It has created programs like The Colorado Preschool Program, an effective program that meets six out of 10 quality standards of the National Institute for Early Education Research and consistently demonstrates school readiness gains for Colorado’s most at-risk children.
 
Alignment of Early Childhood Programs, House Bill 13-1117Alignment of Early Childhood Programs, HB 13-1117was signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper on May 8th, 2013. It aligns early childhood services by moving numerous programs serving young children from multiple state agencies to the Colorado Department of Human Services. This will better serve children and families by streamlining enrollment processes and program administration. 
 
Aligning child development programs increases the coordination and efficiency of program and service administration, resulting in better access to programs that help children and families thrive. Before HB-1117, services for young children and their families were supported by multiple funding streams in multiple state agencies. The Early Childhood Leadership Commission, in partnership with the executive directors of the Colorado Departments of Human Services (CDHS), Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Office of Lieutenant Governor, advised aligning programs for young children age birth to 8 to improve outcomes for children and help them become ready for school. Early childhood stakeholders in Colorado have been working for more than a decade to improve the outcomes of Colorado’s youngest children through a more streamlined and aligned early childhood system
 
HB 1117, reauthorizes the Early Childhood Leadership Commission until September 1, 2018, and moves it from the Office of the Lieutenant Governor to CDHS where it will advise and support CDHS on the implementation of the alignment of child development programs and services. HB 1117 also moves the following programs and funding streams from CDPHE to CDHS (The Colorado Children's Trust Fund and its Board; The Family Resource Center Program; The Nurse Home Visitor Program and The Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program). 

Advocacy in 2012

School Readiness AssessmentSenate Bill 08‐212, Colorado’s Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4K) passed in 2008 with the goal of aligning Colorado’s preschool through postsecondary education system. The act included provisions related to school readiness for both the State Board of Education and local education providers. School readiness describes both the preparedness of a child to engage in and benefit from learning experiences, and the ability of a school to meet the needs of all students enrolled in publicly funded preschool or kindergarten. School readiness is enhanced when schools, families, and community service providers work collaboratively to ensure that every child is ready for higher levels of learning in academic content.

 

School readiness describes the status and ongoing progress a child makes within the domains of physical well‐being and motor development, social and emotional development, language and comprehension development, and cognition and general knowledge. By monitoring each child’s progress across multiple domains, teachers, parents, schools, and caregivers can provide needed support to ensure each child’s success in school. Information gathered from school readiness assessments is to be used for supportive and instructional purposes and cannot be used to deny a student admission or progression to kindergarten or first grade.

 

Beginning in the fall of 2013, local education providers are required to ensure all children in publicly‐funded preschool or kindergarten receive an individual school readiness plan. Also, local education providers must administer the school readiness assessment to each student in kindergarten.  

The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) is advising districts to phase‐in this provision of CAP4K in either the 2013‐14 or 2014‐15 school year.


 
Advocacy in 2011
 
The Child Care Contribution Tax CreditThe Benefits of the Child Care Contribution Credit in Colorado, a study funded by EPIC, the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, and the Merage Foundation, confirms that Colorado’s Childcare Contribution Credit benefits both children and Colorado’s economy.  These benefits—direct and indirect—include economic stimulus for the child care industry and the positive societal impact of providing quality, affordable child care to the state’s working families. The study concludes, “for every dollar that the state invests in the child care industry via the Child Care Contribution Credit, $4.65 is added to the Colorado economy through private contributions, federal matching dollars, and the multiplier effects of the spending.”    
The Child Care Contribution Credit (CCTC) is a critical funding stream for nonprofits that serve and support Colorado’s children. Any taxpayer making a monetary contribution to an eligible nonprofit organization may receive a 50 percent tax credit when filing his or her Colorado income tax return. This powerful tax incentive increases resources for vital child care programs by encouraging private contributions to leverage and supplement public spending and by attracting federal funding to Colorado. The funds are used by the recipient agencies for facility and equipment upgrades, educational resources, keeping programs open, and providing financial assistance to low-income children. In addition, the funds support child care provider training, consumer education, and quality ratings. To view the complete report, click here.
 
Colorado Early Childhood Leadership CommissionEPIC was instrumental in establishing the Colorado Early Childhood Leadership Commission, which is comprised of 35 diverse members from all sectors and from across the state. The charge of the commission is to develop a statewide database to track investments made in children zero to five and to make legislative recommendations to improve systems and investments that involve very young children. Three EPIC CEO Roundtable members serve on the commission along with one member of the Executive Committee.