DENVER, CO – Governor Polis today signed into law Speaker Garnett and Representative 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.
“This is a great day for Colorado’s kids, parents, educators, and early childhood advocates,” said Speaker Alec Garnett, D-Denver. “Guided by their input, this year we set out to ensure Colorado families can access affordable, quality preschool education and early learning services. Today we delivered by creating an innovative new agency that will set us down the path toward guaranteeing universal pre-k to every family in Colorado. Investing in our kids means planting the seeds for a better, more prosperous Colorado to come.”
“For too long, Colorado’s early childhood education and care system has been fractured and difficult to navigate,” said Rep. Emily Sirota, D-Denver. “After today, our efforts to support, educate and care for our youngest Coloradans will be more efficiently organized and will have the resources and funding they need to make a difference. As a former early learning professional, I know that supporting families during the critical early learning years is among the most impactful things we can do to invest in our childrens’ success.”
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 new law 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 will 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.