COLORADO SPRINGS — On April 25 Governor Jared Polis signed HB22-1295 into a law.

The bill establishes a new department known as the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC) which is responsible for early childhood programs. It also creates a free universal preschool program and outlines the role of the executive director of the department.

The CDEC became operational on July 1.

Members of CDEC emphasized the importance of early childhood education and the need for families to have access to a universal preschool program.

“There is so much brain development that is happening in those first few years of a child’s life,” said Lynlee Espeseth, CDEC Communications Manager. “So, when they have access to a really high quality learning environment like a preschool, that can really be an enriching time for children to learn, to grow, to develop socially, emotionally in their education.”

The universal preschool program will save families an average of 4,300 dollars. CDEC Executive Director Dr. Lisa Roy said she is excited to hold this role and give access to early learning programs to children.

“I am looking forward to helping every single family that wants to enroll their child in preschool having access,” said Dr. Roy. “And it not being limited by income or even where you live that will be able to expand the number of slots.”

She will be working with Governor Jared Polis to ensure the universal preschool program is ready for the 2023 school year.

“I’m excited that the Governor really has targeted early childhood as a campaign promise that he’s fulfilled and excited to be back in Colorado to fulfill that vision and make universal preschool as a solid foundation for all young children’s learning,” said Dr. Roy.

The CDEC is also helping families understand how they can be enrolled in this program. Instead of filling out multiple forms, the CDEC is working to create a single form for parents to use.

“Another really core fundamental part of the Department of Early Childhood is making these processes easier on families. So, by having families access that application, that will really be their single point of entry for a lot of these programs,” said Lynlee.

The CDEC will host monthly town halls to provide families with updates on the universal preschool program and information on how to get involved.