“It’s the choosing that’s important, isn’t it?”~Louis Lowery, The Giver

Election day is a critical day for every citizen in the United States of America. Its focus is on CHOICE. We the people choose who we want to lead us, what laws should we create and abide by, and ultimately what America we want to live in. In Colorado, we hold choice above many things; we choose our taxes, our representatives, our programming, our futures, and many of our choices ensure our local control. With November 3, 2020 behind us, here at ECEA we choose to look forward and plan for the future. Its been a busy year full of change for everyone and we wanted to give you- our members- a breakdown of the impacts of 67.6% votes passing Proposition EE- Tobacco and Nicotine Tax.

Prop EE passed and in doing so means that Universal Preschool will be our reality in 2023. With 2,083,785 votes Tobacco and Nicotine Tax will fund our future universal preschool program, or as Governor Polis referred to it “Preschool 4 All”. In July 2020 the Governor’s office along side Colorado Children’s Campaign invited leaders from the Early Childhood field to participate in an ongoing Preschool Advisory Committee. This included individuals from the Department of Education, the Department of Human Services- Office of Early Childhood, the Buell Foundation, the Mirage Foundation, and other individuals from advocacy groups and school districts. Among these members are two of ECEA’s board members; Board President, Scott Bright and board member and President of the Colorado Family Childcare Association, Amber Bilby.

Instead of sitting in our offices letting policy and formation happen to us we prefer to be at the table helping shape it. Our goals for the future universal preschool program are fairly simple. First, a true and balanced mixed delivery system that guarantees parent choice of high quality programs. Secondly, a financially responsible plan for sustainability- not just for the program’s longevity but to be sure that is not burdensome to Colorado’s taxpayers.

We have seen how depending on the school district the current Colorado Preschool Program may be something private providers would love to be a part of; but alas, the school district either is non-responsive, adds unnecessary and expensive hoops to jump through, or they flat refuse to work with the community based providers in their area. To be fair this is not every district… Weld county for example has enthusiastically embraced it’s community providers and its not alone. A universal program dependent on school districts to involve private providers may result is similar frustrations as many currently face with the Colorado Preschool Program. A program that universal preschool may want to follow in suite with would be the Denver Preschool Program (DPP). DPP has shown that it is able to contract with high quality programs both in the school district as well as with private providers- both center based and family childcare based. They ensure that parent choice is held central to their program and that every child going through DPP will have a strong and positive preschool experience.

Though we would all love to live in a world where free education was truly free- its not. We pay for education largely through our taxes. Whether we have children or not, our taxes pay for school districts, benefit programs such as Head Start, Colorado Childcare Assistance Program (CCAP), all those who work within them and lead them, and depending on your county you may even pay taxes to support programming such as (or similar to) Denver Preschool Program. Education is critical in the future of our communities, state, and nation; but how can we be sure that money is being spent in a way that is genuinely in the best interest in the children they serve? There is ongoing evidence that money is not being utilized in the most beneficial way. For one very clear example, just look at the strikes that have taken place in Denver Public Schools- they were able to give the teachers what they needed to live off of after getting rid of countless unnecessary district level positions. Our fear here at ECEA is that if programming is delegated to the school districts spending will go unchecked, businesses trying to participate will be blocked out, and ultimately the children and families that this program is meant to serve will suffer.

Aside from programming fears there is also concern with layered funding. Currently, but not surprisingly, benefit programs hardly work together when it comes to those they serve. If a family depends on programs such as WIC (Women, Infants and Children, food subsidies) they likely also use CCAP, DPP and/or qualify for Head Start. Those programs may refer families to each other, however they do not track the family or child together. Though this is likely because of confidentiality, the consequence is in a universal preschool setting the tax payer is paying for these supports and they will begin layering on at the taxpayers detriment. By this we mean that if little Johnny Pocket is receiving CCAP funding for full day programming, and the school he attends is part of this universal preschool program then the Colorado Tax Payer is paying for little Johnny Pocket’s early education twice, daily, for 37 weeks. Keep in mind, little Johnny Pocket wont be the only one. This will happen for thousands of kids costing the average taxpayer an ongoing burden of paying for a lack of tracking that Colorado has still yet to figure out.

When it comes down to it, Colorado had the choice; it chose to fund Universal Preschool. We are all passionate about early childhood education- that is why we are in this field and it is where we intend on staying! That being said, we must proceed with caution and purpose. Together we must build a sustainable program that supports the private sector and the children we serve. If you feel called to take part in this mission please contact our Executive Director, Kristi Koltiska at kkoltiska@coloradoecea.org for information on how you can take action and choose your role in our future.