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Our lead allies in Colorado are Clayton Early Learning and the nonprofit, non partisan, research, policy, and advocacy organization Colorado Children’s Campaign. Clayton prepares young children for school through family-centered classrooms and home-based practices, research/program evaluation, and professional development. The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a policy, advocacy and research organization that partners with an extensive statewide network of child advocates and serves as the leading voice for kids at the state capitol. The two organizations partner closely with a wide array of advocates to advance well-being for children throughout the state.

2023 State Early Childhood Policy Environment and Progress

State early childhood policy progress is dependent both on the state’s policy environment and the numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

Early Childhood Landscape:

Research shows that family economic security is foundational to children’s overall wellbeing. Research also shows that widespread disparities in opportunity (especially by race) drive wide disparities in outcomes. States with policies that offer strong support to young children and their families are more likely to see 1) declining numbers of children in low-income households and 2) low racial disparity among those children. 

Young Children in Low-Income Households: Declining

Approximately 30% (173,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% FPL (2021). This number represents a decrease from 34% (209,000) in 2016.1

Racial Disparity Among Young Children Living in Low-Income Households: High

Black, Hispanic/Latino, and/or Native children aged 0-8 are significantly more likely to be living in households below 200% FPL than are Asian and non-Hispanic White children.2

Advocacy Landscape:

State General Fund Appropriations: Growing 

Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed the state’s fiscal 2024 budget bill into law on May 1. The budget includes $41.5 billion in operating appropriations from all funds and $15.1 billion in general fund operating appropriations. This represents a 5.6 percent increase in total fund spending and a 11.6 percent
increase in general fund spending over fiscal 2023 levels. After accounting for rebates and other expenditure adjustments, transportation and capital projects, and transfers and diversions, general fund spending obligations in the budget total $16.6 billion, a decrease of $1.4 billion from fiscal 2023. The enacted budget leaves an ending balance in the General Fund Reserve of $2.5 billion. The budget is based on a gross general fund revenue forecast of $16.7 billion for fiscal 2024.3

Key Revenue Sources:

    • Personal Income Tax (4.63%)
    • State Sales Tax (2.9%)

Permanent State Funding Stream Dedicated to Early Childhood: Yes

Colorado earmarks excess collected nicotine tax revenues for free preschool for 4-year-olds statewide. An earlier successful ballot measure raised the nicotine tax to fund a variety of health and education programs, including universal preschool, however the state constitution requires the state to either refund excess tax revenue or seek voter approval to retain it. In 2023, Colorado voted to retain the excess and dedicate it to universal pre-k. (Colorado also recently repealed a state ban on local tobacco taxes.)

In addition, Colorado state law allows local voters to create special local taxing districts called Early Childhood Development Special Districts that dedicate their revenue to funding services for children birth through 8. Once created, the districts can seek voter approval to levy property taxes and sales and use taxes in the district to generate revenues to provide early childhood development services.

Political Alignment: Aligned Democrat

During the 2023 session, the state’s Senate and House were both Democrat controlled. The state’s Governor was also a Democrat.4

Types of Common Ballot Measures Available:5  Six

    • Voter-initiated constitutional amendment – An amendment to a state’s constitution that comes about through the initiative process.
    • Legislature-initiated state statute – Appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Legislature-initiated constitutional amendment – A constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Voter-initiated state statute – Earns a spot on the ballot when sponsors collect signatures according to the laws governing the initiative process in Colorado.
    • Veto referenda – When citizens of Colorado disagree with a statute or legislative bill enacted by the state legislature, they can collect signatures to force the issue to a vote. If enough signatures are collected, the bill is placed on the statewide ballot.
    • Legislature-initiated bond question – A question is referred to the ballot asking voters to approve or deny additional proposed spending.

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Organizations Include:

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Multi-State Initiatives Include:6

A Colorado coalition of advocates is working with Child Care NEXT funding on a sustained effort to pursue bold transformation for the state’s child-care ecosystem.  

2023 Policy Progress:

From child care to pre-K to family economic security, early childhood champions are celebrating several wins for kids and their families—all made possible by the hard work and strong voices of advocates, families, providers, and policymakers.

Highlights from the state’s early childhood policy advocacy community include:7

HB23-1091: Child Care Contribution Tax Credit Renewal: Renews the Child Care Contribution Tax Credit (CCTC) for an additional three years. Child care providers rely on the donations incentivized by the CCTC (an estimated $60 million yearly, statewide) to fund their core programs, increase quality and wages, improve access to care for families, expand their capacity, and provide professional training and career pathway support for staff.

HB23-1290: Retain Revenue for Universal Preschool: Refers a question to November 2023 voters about whether to retain excess revenue raised from Proposition EE, a ballot measure Coloradans passed overwhelmingly in 2020. Prop EE raised taxes on tobacco and nicotine products to fund a free, voluntary universal preschool program. Retaining the additional revenue will allow Colorado to provide universal preschool services and extend additional preschool programming to more children, especially those with qualifying factors who need it most.

SB23-269: Colorado Preschool Program Provider Bonus Payments: Gives participating providers in universal preschool a much-needed financial boost, and the bonus structure is targeted to make the most impact possible with a fixed amount of funding. The bonuses provided by this bill will support providers new to participating in state-run pre-k, providers who maintain or expand their infant and toddler slots, and providers in “low-capacity preschool areas” – areas of the state that are not currently able to meet the demand for universal preschool. 

HB23-1300: Multi-Year Continuous Eligibility for Medicaid and CHP+ : Allows the state to provide continuous Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) coverage to children from birth to age 3 and to provide 12 months of coverage for Coloradans leaving state prison. The bill also creates a study of how to improve the state Medicaid program to support Coloradans’ health, food security, and housing stability. Extending Medicaid and CHP+ coverage for young kids and people leaving carceral settings builds on a successful pandemic-era policy, improving oral and behavioral health, well-being, and access to health services for thousands of Coloradans during critical life periods.

SB23-017: Additional Uses of Paid Sick Leave: Expands on Colorado’s paid sick leave law and explicitly added school and place of care closures to the list of allowable reasons for an employee to use paid sick leave. Notably, this bill does not require the family member attending a school or place of care to be a minor child and will cover adults in care as well.

HB23-1006: Employer Notice of Income Tax Credits: Requires Colorado employers to notify employees of the availability of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, the state Earned Income Tax Credit, the federal Child Tax Credit, and the state Child Tax Credit. Colorado families are missing out and leaving money on the table- this bill will provide employees notice once a year from their employer, so they are better able to identify their eligibility potential. 

HB23-1246: Support In Demand Career Workforce: Will provide a no cost credential option for people entering the field of early childhood education to create a strong incentive for new teachers to explore opportunities. 

Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy:

The Alliance’s lead grantee in Colorado, Colorado Children’s Campaign, is working to advance early childhood policies in several areas: 

Early Care and Education

Preschool and Pre-K

Child Care

Child Care Workforce

Child and
Maternal Health

Maternal Health

Infant & Child Health


Family Economic Security

Early Childhood Infrastructure

Early Childhood Governance

Click here for more information on advocates’ policy agenda.



1 Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, November, 2022 

2 National Center for Children in Poverty, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, March 2023, NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample 2021

3 National Association of State Budget Officers, Summaries of Fiscal Year 2024 Enacted Budgets, October 11, 2023.

4 National Conference of State Legislatures, 2023 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 28, 2023.

5 Ballotpedia, Ballot Measures by State, Kids Count Data Center, retrieved May, 2023.

6 Alliance for Early Success, Multi-State Initiatives for Early Childhood Policy Advocacy, April, 2022.

7 Alliance for Early Success, State-Wide Advocacy Highlights Survey, April-August, 2023.  

More State Policy Data:


More State Demographic Data: