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June 2, 2023

SIGNED! Pair of Bills to Bolster Early Childhood Education

DENVER, CO – Today Governor Jared Polis signed into law a pair of bills to make new investments in Colorado’s early childhood education system.

Sponsored by Senators Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, and Janice Rich, R-Grand Junction, and Representatives Meghan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs, and Mary Bradfield, R-Colorado Springs, SB23-269 funds one-time bonus payments for early childhood care providers participating in Colorado’s Universal Preschool Program (UPK). The bonuses must be used to implement the Universal Preschool Program, or to maintain or expand infant and toddler care capacity.

“Access to quality early childhood education not only supports critical early development and future educational outcomes for Colorado kids, but also the very well-being of families across our state,” Buckner said. “These one-time bonuses are a much deserved thank you to the early childhood care providers working to get Colorado’s Universal Preschool Program up and running. I look forward to watching UPK benefit Colorado’s youth this fall and for generations to come.”

“Colorado’s universal preschool program is on the horizon, and we’re expressing our gratitude to the providers that will make it possible,” said Lukens. “This bipartisan law will help recruit more providers and will send preschool providers a bonus to help them renovate spaces, purchase new educational materials, and support their staff. Colorado couldn’t implement high-quality, free universal preschool without providers, and this law gives them a well-deserved thank you.” 

Providers may receive an additional bonus payment if they maintain or increase their capacity to serve infants and toddlers between April 1, 2022 and April 1, 2024, or are in low-capacity preschool areas.

The bipartisan bill invests $2.5 million in the Colorado Universal Preschool Program Provider Participation Bonus Program, housed within the Department of Early Childhood.

HB23-1290, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, Senator Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, and Rep. Emily Sirota, D-Denver, refers a measure to the November 2023 ballot asking voters to allow the state to keep the excess revenue collected on tobacco and other tobacco products to fund UPK in Colorado. If approved by voters, the measure would allow the state to direct the nearly $24 million in excess revenue to support Colorado’s early childhood learners, instead of refunding that amount to the tobacco industry.

"Preschool programs play a vital role in Colorado's communities by laying a strong foundation for children and providing essential child care services for working parents," Moreno said. "This bill presents an opportunity for voters to redirect much-needed funds towards Colorado's early education system, instead of returning them to tobacco distributors and wholesalers. With the potential to infuse nearly $24 million into preschool programs, HB23-1290 represents a wise investment in the future of our children and our state."

“Overwhelming support for statewide universal preschool is no surprise, because it will create educational opportunities for our youngest learners, save families money, and help parents get back to work,” said McCluskie. “Universal preschool is one of the smartest investments we can make as a state, and I’m proud Coloradans agree. The revenue collected from the tax on nicotine products has come in higher than originally predicted, and this legislation confirms voters’ commitment to using these funds to provide preschool to all four-year-olds in the state.”

“In 2020, voters overwhelmingly supported taxing tobacco and nicotine products to fund Colorado’s transformational Universal Preschool Program and boost learning opportunities for our youngest Coloradans,” said Fields. “This bill gives voters the chance to build on that progress and utilize existing funding to support even more families seeking preschool programs.”

“Universal preschool will be here in just a few months, and the funds collected from the voter-approved Proposition EE made it possible for the state to provide free, early childhood education to our youngest learners,” said Sirota. “Studies show that preschool and early childhood education prepare kids for a lifetime of educational success. This legislation reaffirms Coloradans’ commitment to our families by asking them if the state may keep revenue collected from the special tax on nicotine and direct it toward UPK, rather than returning it to the tobacco industry.”

In 2020 Colorado voters approved Proposition EE, which created new excise taxes on cigarettes, tobacco, and nicotine products to fund a number of priorities, including UPK. The new tax rates are designed to phase in over the next few fiscal years through 2027. When originally approved by voters, it was estimated that Proposition EE would raise $186.5 million in new tax revenue in its first year. Actual revenue from the new tobacco taxes exceeded the predicted amount by nearly $24 million.

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