Garnett, Sirota Advance Bill to Create the Department of Early Childhood

DENVER, CO– The House Education Committee today advanced Speaker Alec Garnett and Rep. Emily Sirota’s bill to create a new, cabinet-level state agency focused on early childhood education and care, setting up the framework for universal pre-K in Colorado. The bill passed by a vote of 7-2. 

“Every parent in Colorado wants to give their kids the best possible shot at success, and we know that starting with high quality early childhood education is the best way to do so,” said Speaker Alec Garnett, D-Denver. “Guided by the input of parents, advocates, and educators, this bill seeks to create an innovative new agency that will help ensure Colorado families can access affordable, quality preschool education and early learning services. We’re building back stronger for our youngest Coloradans too.”

“The early childhood years are without a doubt the most crucial in a child’s cognitive development, and yet far too often this is also when families have the least support and children face the greatest barriers to opportunity,” said Rep. Emily Sirota, D-Denver. “This bill helps solve this problem by laying the groundwork for universal pre-K and streamlines our early childhood efforts into one agency that will have the resources and funding necessary to help our youngest Coloradans succeed.” 

Based on the recommendations of the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, HB21-1304 creates the Department of Early Childhood as a new, cabinet-level state agency with a mission to expand access to high-quality, voluntary, affordable early childhood opportunities, support parents in accessing programs and services, promote equitable delivery of resources, and unify the fragmented administration of early childhood services to reduce duplicative oversight and administrative burden on families, providers, and educators.

The bill also requires the creation of a plan to implement voluntary universal preschool statewide in alignment with Proposition EE, and streamlines existing and new funding sources for early childhood education and care programs. Under this legislation, the Governor would submit the community-informed transition plan to the Joint Budget Committee in November as part of his 2022 budget request, to be considered for further legislative action by the General Assembly in the 2022 session.