House advances bills to invest in early childhood education and care and provide schools with funding to make air quality improvements
DENVER, CO– The House today passed two state stimulus bills to fund air quality improvement projects in public and charter schools and channel state and federal funds to support Colorado’s families by investing in our early childhood education and care providers. These bills are a part of the Colorado Comeback state stimulus, a package of legislation that will invest roughly $800 million into helping Colorado recover faster and build back stronger. The bills passed the House on Second Reading.
“As we work to ensure our students and educators have the resources they need to close the COVID learning gap, we have to make sure that their learning environments are adequate, comfortable, and safe,” said Rep. Emily Sirota, D-Denver, sponsor of SB21-202. “Investing in the quality of the air our children breathe while they learn should be a basic priority, and I’m proud that we were able to provide this funding today.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic forced far too many working parents, especially working moms, out of the workforce,” said Rep. Kerry Tipper, D-Lakewood, sponsor of SB21-236. “This is a once in a generation investment in child care and early childhood education, and it’s just one of the many ways the legislature is working to offset the disparate impact that this economic downturn has had on women. I’m committed to providing young Colorado families with the support they need to help their children learn and grow in the critical early childhood years, all while continuing to pursue their professional goals and contribute to our economy.”
SB21-202, also sponsored by Rep. Colin Larson, would allocate $10 million for Building Excellent Schools Today grants to fund much-needed public school air quality improvement projects to improve air quality in as many public and charter school facilities as possible. Kids learn better in environments that are safe, clean, and healthy. Unfortunately, over the years, Colorado’s deferred maintenance of school facilities has grown, particularly in rural areas. These construction and capital projects will create good jobs, make long-term improvements to Colorado schools’ infrastructures, and provide safer, more constructive learning environments for students.
SB21-236, also sponsored by Rep. Tonya Van Beber, takes several steps to support child care providers and young families in Colorado. First, it creates the new innovative Employer-based Child Care Facility Grant Program and funds it with Colorado Comeback state stimulus dollars. The program would award matching grants to nonprofit, private, and government employers to retrofit and develop new, on-site or near-site, licensed child care facilities. These grants are meant to ensure that Coloradans have access to high-quality child care at their places of work as we come out of the pandemic, and would prioritize employers whose workforce earns below the area median income.
The bill also sets up a framework to ensure hundreds of millions of federal dollars directed to the Child Care and Development (CCDF) fund can be spent effectively and efficiently by the Department of Human Services. These funds have already been disbursed by the federal government but require state approval to be properly implemented. SB21-236 sets up several new programs and adequately funds several others to ensure Colorado’s youngest kids, as well as their parents and early childhood professionals, can thrive.
The seven programs in this category, as outlined in the bill’s fiscal note, include The Child Care Sustainability Grant Program, created in last year’s special session to provide financial support to licensed child care providers and neighborhood youth organizations that were at risk of closing their doors due to the pandemic. The bill also creates and funds several programs to foster innovation, recruit and retain educators, and support mental health wellness in the early childhood education and care sector.