New Department of Early Childhood pending approval

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — This afternoon, Governor Jared Polis (D-CO) hosted an event where he announced the transition plan for a new unified Department of Early Childhood. The event today marked exactly one year since Proposition EE was passed, which dedicated funding to establish a universal preschool program by 2023.

“A year ago today, the voters of this state, more than two-thirds of the voters, said kids should be able to go to preschool no matter where you live, it should be free for everybody… kids should be able to go to preschool,” Governor Polis said.

Michelle Barnes, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, said the DEC will help children receive more access to early childcare. She said that families with young children face many challenges — and one of those being the cost of infant and child care.”

“In Colorado, infant care costs per month are nearly 10 percent more than the average monthly rent,” Barnes said.

Not only are the costs a challenging aspect of being a parent, but Barnes also said that with more access to childcare, parents will be able to get back to work which in turn will support Colorado business and the workforce.

“Even before the pandemic, over half the parents reported having missed work days or opportunities because they either did not have access to care or could not afford it,” Barnes said. “This new department helps families more easily and equitably access Early Childhood services.”

According to Barnes, 90 percent of brain growth happens before a child turns 5, so more access to child care could help nurture this development so the governor and sponsors of the department said that having a high quality learning environment could set children up for success in the future.

“We’ll now have a focused effort to make sure that those early childhood years that you all are experiencing here will be the best that they can be in Colorado and prepare you for success in school, in life, and beyond, and we know that the data shows that those early years are so important,” Governor Polis said.

The plan is still pending approval by the Early Childhood Leadership Commission which will meet next Wednesday. An endorsement is expected on Nov. 15.

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