DENVER, CO– The House today passed HB21-1304, sponsored by Speaker Alec Garnett and Representative Emily Sirota by a vote of 44-20. The bill creates a new, cabinet-level state agency focused on early childhood education and care, setting up the framework for universal pre-K in Colorado.
“Every parent knows child care in Colorado is far too expensive, and every early childhood advocate knows our current system is fractured and doesn’t meet every family’s needs,” said Speaker Alec Garnett, D-Denver. “The bill we passed today sets up a system that will allow us to tackle both of these issues at once, streamlining the early childhood system and putting us on track to guarantee the option of universal pre-K for every family in the state.”
“We know that early childhood years are the most crucial in a child’s cognitive development, but this time in a family’s life is often when they have the least support,” said Rep. Emily Sirota, D-Denver. “Child care and early childhood education is getting more and more expensive and harder to access for the families that need it. By creating a state department for early childhood education, we will lay the groundwork for universal pre-K and ensure that early childhood providers have the resources and funding necessary to ensure 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.