Back in 2006, Denver passed a sales tax increase to provide for a city-wide pre-Kindergarten/preschool system, the first of its kind in the city and the state. Today, it’s a nationally-recognized program that has provided pre-school education to almost 51,000 students. Now Summit County, a resort community in the mountains, will initiate a similar system after voters there approved a measure to use proceeds from a new property tax to fund preschool services. Advocates say the new program will help prepare children for Kindergarten and still allow parents to remain in the workforce with young, not-quite-school-age children.
In the Denver area, there are many Early Childhood Education centers for preschool and more. Pickens’ ECE program helps high schoolers get a jump on learning everything they need to get started in a career in education at these places. The idea behind PTC’s ECE program is to prepare students to work with young children in as many scenarios as possible to create better learning outcomes for ECE students and more. If more communities around the state adopt practices similar to Denver’s preschool system, could support a state-wide preschool program take off?
Whispers of a State Preschool Program
“In Colorado, it feels like it’s going to be a community-by-community strategy until we reach a tipping point,” said Early Milestones Colorado executive director Jennifer Stedron after her organization helped design Summit County’s Pre-K program and set cost expectations. Stedron also rightly pointed out that new Colorado Governor-Elect Jared Polis made statewide free universal preschool part of his successful campaign platform. With a Democrat-controlled legislature, it’s more than possible.
However, Colorado voters have shown skepticism about statewide tax increases for education. In November, voters rejected Amendment 73, which would have devoted tax dollars to preschool and other educational services. The state’s low educational budget when compared to similar states, combined with the difficulty of passing tax increases to fund education because of state political wrangling and the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment make it difficult to move the needle in favor of any statewide education programs.
Other Efforts to Provide Better ECE Services
Aside from Summit County and Denver, there are other areas in Colorado where preschool programs are gaining traction. Jefferson County passed two tax measures aimed at improving and expanding preschool programs, while San Miguel County in the southwest part of the state passed a tax measure for preschool in 2017. Several other Colorado cities and school districts around the state have passed similar tax measures.
What Does This Mean?
As you progress through the Pickens ECE program, you’ll start to hear more about opportunities throughout the state for ECE and preschool experts. If more counties, cities, and school districts approve preschool programs, the demand for skilled preschool teachers and caretakers will increase. We might be several years from a statewide ECE program, but many Colorado parents and residents are recognizing the importance of state-sponsored preschool programs, and that’s good news for anyone studying ECE in this state.