Briefline

Plans to elevate early childhood education to cabinet level presented by Gov. Polis

By: - November 3, 2021 5:19 pm

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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis presented transition plans for the new Department of Early Childhood on Wednesday afternoon, one year after voters approved the funding mechanism to establish a universal preschool program in the state. 

Proposition EE, passed in November 2020, imposed new taxes on nicotine and tobacco products to raise money for a voluntary preschool program for every 4-year-old that would be in place by 2023. The General Assembly passed legislation this spring to establish the new state department specifically for early childhood education.

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“The data is clear that good child care and high quality preschool can make a major positive difference in outcomes for kids — their success, their future job opportunities, lower crime, higher earnings,” Polis said during a presentation at Aurora Public Schools’ Meadowood Child Development Center.

The transition plan recommends that the new department should be run by an executive director with guidance from a rules and regulations advisory council. 

The goal is that by next July, the department runs all programs currently in the Department of Human Services’s Office of Early Childhood and the services currently administered by the Early Childhood Workforce Development team. It will also run the Colorado Preschool Program/Early Childhood At-Risk Enhancement program, which will eventually be unified with the new universal preschool program.

When it is fully up and running, the department will “define what high-quality, age-appropriate early care and education looks like for teachers and children,” according to a statement from the governor’s office. 

The creation of the Department of Early Childhood means that an advocate for early childhood education will be at the cabinet level of the state government.

“I love that in this department, the end goal is truly to center the needs of our children, our families and our providers,” said state​ Rep. Emily Sirota, a Denver Democrat who sponsored the legislation that created the department. Additional sponsors were House Speaker Alec Garnett of Denver, Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg of Boulder and Sen. Janet Buckner of Aurora, all Democrats.

The department will cost a bit over $1 million in the current fiscal year and approximately $670,000 in next year’s budget, according to a legislative budget analysis

The Early Childhood Leadership Commission will need to approve the transition plan by Nov. 15. A plan for the voluntary preschool program is expected to be submitted in January.

Final Department of Early Childhood Transition Report - 11-1-2021

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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