Now that the 2018 regular session of the Colorado General Assembly is completed, we’re adding up all the big wins for Colorado’s young children and families.
This session saw significant policy action and investments in the financing of early childhood learning and development, building on recent years of success. Every single win had bipartisan sponsorship, as well as bipartisan votes in each chamber, which is a testament to the broad support for early childhood among Colorado legislators, no matter their party.
This year, due to the coordinated efforts of many partners inside and outside the Capitol, the Colorado Children’s Campaign and Clayton Early Learning are excited about several major, bipartisan policy wins for early childhood this session:
- Promoting child care availability: HB 18-1004 continues the expiring Child Care Contribution Tax Credit to 2025, a vital incentive that is anticipated to result in more than $60 million in investments in child care availability and supporting youth serving organizations. This innovative Colorado-created tax credit has had a 20-year history of supporting early care and education, before and after school programs, early childhood scholarships, and services and programs for youth.
- Increasing the affordability of child care: HB 18-1208 expands access to the state’s refundable Child Care Expenses Tax Credit resulting in more than $3.5 million in new investments that will help working families better afford child care. HB 18-1335 will expand access to the state’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) while also promoting continuity of care and improve the quality of services. It will also be coupled with a 22 percent budget increase for child care assistance over last year. CCCAP has seen a 52% increase (overall) over five years (including 115% state general fund increase).
- Preschool & Full-day kindergarten: HB 18-1379 expands access to the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) and full-day Kindergarten for CPP-eligible children by investing $4.2 million in an additional 1,000 slots via the School Finance Act. This is the state’s first expansion of preschool and full-day Kindergarten since 2014 and represents an important down payment in addressing the waiting list of thousands of children whose families are trying to access quality early learning via the Colorado Preschool Program, but cannot due to underfunding.
- Substitute child care teachers: SB 18-162 increases access to substitute child care teachers so that changes in early care and education teachers’ schedules do not create a disruption in families’ child care arrangements.
- Targeting access to early learning: HB 18-1134 ensures that Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) eligibility standards apply to kindergarten children who are funded with Early Childhood At-Risk Enhancement (ECARE) program slots. This ensures that, with limited dollars, we target resources to the students most likely to benefit from quality early learning but may face the greatest obstacles in accessing it.
- Alignment of early childhood quality initiatives: SB 18-099 will streamline Colorado’s quality improvement initiatives for early care and education settings. It codifies in statute our state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (Colorado Shines) and encourages provider participation in QRIS and our state’s child care subsidy program.
- Ensuring screening access for newborn infants: HB 18-1006 strengthens and protects access to timely medical intervention if a baby screens positive at birth for a potentially life-threatening genetic or metabolic condition. It also enhances the existing newborn hearing screening program by facilitating better care coordination among families and medical providers. Newborn screening is a cost‐effective policy that leads to earlier intervention and access to lifesaving care.
- Continuing to prioritize early childhood and school readiness: SB 18-163 extends the work of the bipartisan standing legislative commission focused on early childhood, the Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission, which was set to expire this year.
- Expanding access to abuse prevention training: HB 18-1064 will expand access to training programs for early childhood providers and others working with young children to help prevent child sexual abuse.
- Coordinating services for children with developmental delays: HB 18-1333 will result in greater coordination between the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Department of Human Services and will streamline the process of Early Intervention evaluations to ensure that our youngest children are connected to the services they need to support their healthy development.
Coupled with these important policy changes, the legislature also made significant investments in young children a priority. Early childhood priorities included in this year’s spending package included:
- An increase of $21 million for the Office of Early Childhood to improve access to quality early care and education via the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP).
- A new investment of $500,000 for the Office of Early Childhood to support the training, education, and certification of our early care and education workforce.
- A $2 million increase for the Department of Education to expand the Expelled and At-Risk Student Services (EARSS) grant program to mitigate the use and impact of suspensions and expulsions.
- A $600,000 investment for the Office of Early Childhood to expand access to Incredible Years, an evidence-based parenting and teacher training program that advances early childhood social and emotional development and behavioral health.
- A $1 million increase for Colorado’s system of Early Childhood Councils to support their local work coordinating early childhood services.
There were certainly missed opportunities (see, for example, HB 18-1232 and HB 18-1420) to support young children and we know we have much work still to do to ensure every chance for every child. But, we are hopeful that the positive momentum in support of early childhood continues throughout this election year and into a new gubernatorial administration’s early priorities. In order for that to happen, however, advocates and community leaders must continue to advocate at the State Capitol and elevate the role of public investments as a place where young children and families are prioritized. The Children’s Campaign looks forward to continuing to be at the front of that charge and working in partnership with leaders from around the state, advocates from many sectors, and local communities to place children at the center of our state’s priorities.
We look forward to continuing to work on behalf of young children and families together!
–Bill Jaeger, Vice President, Early Childhood & Policy Initiatives
(August 7, 2018)