Bill Jaeger of the Colorado Children’s Campaign said advocates have been calling for increased investment and a more coordinated approach for the past three decades. He said progress has been made. Despite overwhelming brain science research showing that the first few years of life are the most critical in a child’s development, families of young children receive the least support during this time period.
“It’s the age at which children are most likely to live in poverty, least likely to have access to enriching learning experiences like school, and when families are earning the least amount of money…. and so, to recognize that we have to elevate this time period in children’s lives on par with K-12 education and higher education is a historic. It’s a tremendous potential step forward for the state.”
The birth through age 5 system is complex. Right now, thousands of Colorado families experience a fragmented system that is administered by multiple state agencies, with funding and application and eligibility requirements from five different funding streams each with different standards.
“It’s really hard still for families to navigate across those different silos,” Jaeger said. It’s hoped a single agency will align and streamline the programs that serve young children. An analysis of a new governance model acknowledges that it will take “financial, logistical and political resources to create a new agency,” starting with legislative approval.
Advocates say the passage of Proposition EE, which will fund at least 10 hours of preschool for 4-year-olds, catalyzed the issue. That component of Proposition EE goes into effect in the fall of 2023.
Six states have early childhood agencies, including Alabama and New Mexico.