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DENVER (KDVR) — A year ago, Colorado voters passed Proposition EE, which paved the way to fund a new state department dedicated to making universal Pre-K a reality for parents.

The Department of Early Childhood will absorb the responsibilities of the Office of Early Childhood within the Department of Human Services, but with the greater task of establishing universal Pre-K by 2023.

The DEC will open it’s doors officially on July 1, 2022, and have one year to roll out a voluntary universal preschool program that will provide all Coloradans access to ten hours of early care and education per week, per child, by July 2023. This would apply to children one year before they enter kindergarten.

“On this day last year, Coloradans voted for free preschool for every child, an investment in early childhood care and education that supports families and child development,” said Governor Polis. “This new plan is a key step to make this a reality as we prepare for voter-approved funding for all four-year-olds in fall of 2023. I’m excited that with today’s news we can continue to build on Colorado’s longstanding commitment to children and families.”

Polis also included additional funding for early childhood education in his FY 2022-23 budget proposal, including a $13 million investment to help the DEC hit the ground running with it’s new mandate.

The DEC will present a transition plan to the Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission Dec. 1, which will need to be approved before it formally launches in the summer of next year.

You can watch the governor’s announcement on FOX31 NOW in the player above.