Colorado’s universal pre-K push starts with new state agency

The state of Colorado will create a new department next year focused on early childhood education and the task of setting up universal pre-K by 2023.

On Wednesday at Plum Hill Preschool in Denver, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed HB21-1304, a bill he previously said will improve access to various funding sources and will open doors for quality preschool. Democratic Rep. Emily Sirota of Denver sponsored the bill, and said the new law will put resources under one roof.

The bill received unanimous support in the Senate, and a few Republicans joined Democrats in the House in favor of it.

Colorado already knows where the money for at least 10 hours a week of free preschool will come from: Proposition EE, which passed in November and put new tax on vaping and increased tax on cigarettes. The taxes are expected to generate almost $300 million by 2027.

“Early childhood education plays an essential role in a child’s academic success,” said bill sponsor Sen. Janet Buckner, an Aurora Democrat. “This bill will lay the groundwork for universal preschool across Colorado … and … will help our youngest learners and families throughout the state.”

The new department will be established July 1, 2022. A working group will be tasked with submitting recommendations for the pre-school program and the new department will be included as part of the governor’s budget request next year.

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