Colorado Early Childhood Advocates Celebrate After Successful Legislative Session

At the conclusion of the Colorado General Assembly’s 120-day 2014 Legislative Session on May 7th, early childhood advocates had a lot to celebrate.  Beginning with opening day speeches by both the Speaker of the House, Mark Ferrandino, and the Senate President, Morgan Carroll, children’s issues and child care in particular were major areas of focus throughout the session. 

A series of new pieces of legislation and line-item increases in key budget priorities will create many exciting new opportunities for young children to access quality early learning and health care.

Clayton Early Learning and the Colorado Children’s Campaign were able to partner as a result of support from the Alliance for Early Success to bring key stakeholders together to support new investments in young children.  Our organizations were also able to work with EPIC (Executives Partnering to Invest in Children) to leverage a business voice in support of several key policy changes.  As a result of the work of key stakeholders over the past year, the General Assembly advanced several key priorities.  A few highlights include:

  • We successfully advocated for a major overhaul of our state’s child care subsidy program (the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program, or CCCAP).  House Bill 14-1317 (Rep. Crisanta Duran/Sen. Jeanne Nicholson & Sen. John Kefalas) was based on a stakeholder process known as the CCCAP Collaborative that was convened by Clayton Early Learning, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, and EPIC and that was supported by the Alliance for Early Success along with technical assistance from Gail Nourse at the Ounce of Prevention, and Hannah Matthews at CLASP.  This bill and two companion pieces of legislation all received bipartisan support and were signed by the Governor on May 22nd.  Most notably, HB 14-1317 (click here for the bill, here for the fiscal note, and here for our fact sheet with list of supporters) advances numerous key priorities in our state’s child care subsidy program including capping copays for those at 100% of FPL, allowing for contracting of slots, expanding eligibility during 60-day job searches and to those in postsecondary education and workforce training, aligning CCCAP with other public benefit programs, two-tier eligibility to mitigate the cliff effect, raising the statewide eligibility floor, decoupling the child and parent’s schedules, improving provider reimbursement rates, and instituting tiered reimbursement statewide.  These changes come with a new $10 million state investment (a 73% increase in state funding over last year).  In addition, HB 14-1022 (see here for the bill and here for the fact sheet) and SB 14-003 (see here for the bill and here for the fact sheet) took on two other pieces of the child care subsidy puzzle – continuity of care by aligning 12 months (minimum) eligibility with an equivalent authorization period and piloting strategies to mitigate the cliff effect.
  • We were also excited to advocate for the extension of our state’s child care expenses tax credit (which is reimbursable) to families making less than $25,000 (see here for HB 14-1072).  Previously the reimbursable credit was only available to families making between $25,000 and $60,000.
  • The state budget also includes $2.2 million for quality improvement grants for child care providers (targeted to facilities working with children subsidized with CCDBG funds), $1.3 million for a child care licensing staff increase to improve site monitoring frequency, $1.9M for child care subsidy provider rate increase, $100,000 for Reach Out and Read, and $300,000 to help link data for children in early childhood programs to the K-12 system.
  • Finally, the School Finance Act (see here) includes 5,000 new early learning slots (used for preschool or full-day kindergarten for at-risk children) paid for with a $17.1 million increase in state support and The Student Success Act (see the bill here) includes $18 million new dollars for our early literacy initiative for K-3 struggling readers.

In the end, these investments total close to $60 million new state dollars for Colorado’s early care and learning system.  These are important steps forward for Colorado’s kids and we were particularly pleased to have bipartisan support on all of the items above.  Through effective partnerships, facilitated by support from the Alliance for Early Success, we were able to see a number of key early learning priorities move forward this session.  There is much work to be done to see these policy changes implemented, and even more to do to meet the great unmet need for our young children in this and other domains, but it was an exciting session for Colorado’s young and vulnerable children.

-Bill Jaeger
Vice President, Early Childhood Initiatives
Colorado Children’s Campaign
(June 16, 2014)

***For more details on the legislation, please read this summary.