The Passage of Proposition EE by voters in November 2020 established a graduated tax increase on tobacco and nicotine vaping products, and created an historic opportunity to invest in the health and early education of Colorado children through the establishment of universal preschool. Beginning in 2023, Proposition EE is expected to raise approximately $222 million annually to create and operate a universal preschool program so kids in their year before kindergarten have access to quality early childhood care and education. Children who attend preschool are less likely to have reading deficiencies, half as likely to be held back by third grade, and more likely to graduate on time and achieve long term career success.
Over 62,000 children are born each year in Colorado and approximately 67% of children live in households where all parents participate in the paid labor force. Colorado also has the eighth highest cost of child care for families across the US, so universal access to preschool supports the financial stability of families and Colorado’s workforce participation, economic productivity, and employee retention. At the same time, the revenue for universal preschool access will strengthen the early child care and education industry with funding that can support quality environments, facility infrastructure investments, and improved compensation for early childhood educators.
The Colorado Preschool Program currently only serves 23% of 4-year-old children in Colorado and expanded access to a variety of preschool programs is required to meet the needs of all working families. With bordering states serving 80-plus percent of 4-year-olds, Colorado is at risk of children falling behind if the passage of Proposition EE is not taken as an opportunity to change how the state supports families and children.
Adaptive innovation and user-centered design have been key to the economic success and growth witnessed in Colorado’s economy. Using these key principles, business leaders see the impending universal preschool design process as a catalyst to reimagine a complicated and fractured system that currently places a significant burden on Colorado families and the businesses providing early childhood care and preschool education.
Many Colorado business leaders and their organizations supported Proposition EE, with the goal of investing in the success and skills of the future workforce while supporting the needs of the current workforce. The Colorado business community seeks to shape policy and the creation of a universal preschool program that:
- Meets the needs of as many families as possible and prioritizes access for those furthest from opportunity. In other states with universal preschool, programs serve up to 87% of the state need. We want to be better.
- Builds a great workforce for the future and helps Colorado employers retain employees and related productivity.
- Prioritizes transparency for revenue collected and can be invested and adapted through implementation with limited bureaucratic hurdles.
Children and Families: Ensuring Access for All students
Support Colorado’s future workforce and economic development by ensuring all children have access to quality preschool experiences.
- To realize the promise of preschool and ensure all children can reach their highest educational and career aspirations, quality investments must be made into programs providing preschool in all parts of the state and in communities furthest from opportunity to achieve access to high quality early learning experiences.
Empower family choice and individualize funding to meet unique child needs and streamline with other community investments.
- Two-thirds of Colorado families with children under age six have all adults in the workforce, and families should be able to choose the preschool program that works best for their child and their schedules. This requires structuring the funding model so financial supports can be layered and follow the child to the state-licensed preschool of their choice, regardless of geography, school type, or program design.
Ensure all children have access to preschool and prioritize those with the greatest need.
- Preschool is one of the most effective ways to reduce disparities in academic achievement and ensure children of all backgrounds succeed in school and life. To realize the promise of preschool as a tool for equity, the program should be structured to provide the greatest resources to children and families who lack sufficient access to economic and community resources.
Preschool Providers: Ensuring Access for All Licensed Providers
Ensure participation and public funding is equally accessible to all licensed preschool providers.
- All state-licensed preschool providers (over 3,400) should be eligible and encouraged to participate equally in state-funded programs, including those operated by public school districts, public charter schools, independent schools, for profit and nonprofit community-based child care centers, and for profit and nonprofit child care home providers.
Address long-term capacity needs and reduce barriers to entry for individuals seeking opportunities to open child care and preschool programs.
- Colorado needs to increase preschool capacity for nearly 7,000 additional 4-year-old children. As a matter of economic development and creating equal opportunity for all, infrastructure investments and resources to support the creation and expansion of child care and preschool businesses should be made available with a priority placed on communities with limited to no preschool access, women, and communities of color.
Design and Implementation: Ensuring Agility, Innovation, Efficiency, and Transparency
Design processes and systems with simplicity, efficiency, and ease of use for families and preschool providers.
- Universal preschool should be part of a coordinated model with a single access point and a universal application for families, which is designed with Colorado children, families, and preschool providers at the center and with the greatest value placed on easy navigation, customer service, and access.
Implement program administration with agility, innovation, and transparency.
- The universal preschool program should be implemented in a way that allows for iterative and rapid adaptation in response to external conditions.
- Information on the universal preschool program finances and results should be open for review by taxpayers and policymakers to assess return on investment.
- Bureaucratic processes and program administration expenses should be limited to maximize the value to children, families, and preschool providers.