DENVER (KDVR) – Universal pre-K moved closer to becoming law here in Colorado on Thursday with state officials voting on HB22-1295, and now it heads to the governor’s desk.
We’re getting new details tonight about what’s in the plan, the benefits and the bill’s price tag. We’re also hearing from critics of the bill.
The bill won’t go into effect until the 2023-24 school year and supporters of the bill have said that Colorado’s families will save over $4,000 a year, on average. However, those against the bill have said that this price tag is enormous.
Thursday, it passed through a vote in Colorado’s senate, with 24 in favor and 11 against.
Thousands of parents are now breathing a little easier as the state senate passes a bill to make pre-kindergarten in the state universal.
“You might want to call me Mrs. Santa Claus because I have so much hope,” Janet Buckner said shortly before the bill passed.
She is one of the prime sponsors of the Department Early Childhood and Universal Preschool Program bill.
It’s a move that will save parents $4,300 annually, and with soaring costs and historic inflation levels, this is some much-needed good news for families.
“I am confident that this program and the new Department of Education for Childhood Development is going to work,” Buckner said on the House floor on Thursday.
Starting in 2023, this bill will give all families a chance to access 10 hours of free preschool per week for all four-year-olds, which is about two hours per day. That’s good for some parents but not those who have to work 40 hours per week.
“The other piece of that is ten hours a week is not enough time,” one woman told FOX31. She is a director of a local preschool so she spoke with us on the condition of anonymity.
“I’ve gotten people who’ve called asking if we do full-day [pre-K]. Well, we don’t do full day, so that puts more difficulty on them if they send their kids over here to preschool and then they have to figure out have to get them from preschool to a daycare,” the woman added.
This bill will cost the state $167.5 million between now and 2024, giving some the cause to pause on the bill’s sustainability.
“How’s that money going to continue to come in?” the woman asked.
One way this bill will be funded is through taxes on tobacco products, with a discount for modified risk tobacco products that have been deemed safer, but this does not include vape products.
“Universal pre-K is a great idea, but the way it’s funded is the problem,” Devin Matthews told us.
Matthews owns multiple vape shops around the metro and says the tax hike will result in more people choosing tobacco over safer alternatives like vaping.
“I think a lot of things are, think about the children, and not think about the parents,” Matthews added.
This bill also establishes the new Department of Early Childhood, which will streamline the early childhood system. Officials say this will make it easier for families to navigate by creating a single application for early childhood programs.