DENVER (KDVR) — A bill, the purpose of which is to ease the financial strain on Colorado’s parents by creating “universal preschool,” just surpassed another milestone in the state Senate.
The universal preschool bill, HB22-1295, underwent its second hearing in the Senate on Tuesday during a floor work session and passed with five amendments after it previously gained approval in the House back on March 25. The bill could save Coloradan families an average of $4,300 annually.
Colorado already has free full-day kindergarten, which was passed in 2019. The universal preschool bill would make children eligible, starting in the fiscal year 2023-24, for 10 hours of free preschool education a week, all while giving parents the chance to search for a better fitting school that falls within the program.
“Preschool is too expensive, forcing many families to choose between paying for housing or providing a quality education for their kids. As a parent, I want to make sure every Colorado child has access to the education they deserve, which is why preschool has been a priority of my administration since day one,” Gov. Jared Polis said.
According to the fiscal note of HB22-1295, it will raise state costs by $167.5 million between 2022 and 2024.
The “Department Early Childhood And Universal Preschool Program” bill would establish the Colorado Department of Early Childhood, reallocating early childhood duties that currently fall under the umbrella held by both the Department of Human Services and the Colorado Department of Education.
Duties to be reallocated to the Department of Early Childhood
- Oversight of early childhood councils and family resource centers.
- Oversight of the Child Abuse Prevention Board and Trust Fund, with two additional members on the board of early intervention services.
- Child Care Services and Substance Use Disorder Treatment Pilot Program, which would be extended to 2028.
- Oversight of the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Program.
- Oversight of all the early childhood emergency relief grant programs.
- Oversight of the School Readiness Quality Improvement Program.
- Oversight of the Infant and Toddler Quality and Availability Grant Program.
Additionally, stipulations within the bill would move the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program from the Colorado Department of Health Service to the newly formed Department of Early Childhood.