The Pickens Technical College Early Childhood Education program is set up to prepare students for entry into one of the most needed and popular fields in the state of Colorado. When Governor Jared Polis was elected in 2018, he promised to emphasize expanded funding for education, particularly early childhood education, recognizing the integral role childcare and education has on the state as a whole. With the Governor’s Office’s eye squarely on early childhood education and daycare, it appeared the industry would flourish.
Then COVID-19 broke out around the world and parents are scrambling to hold onto their jobs and take care of their children while schools are trying to teach remotely. Early childhood education workers are still working with the children of healthcare workers and other essential employees, but there is a ton of uncertainty surrounding the early education and childcare systems in the state because of the pandemic.
Money Coming In
Colorado has received $41 million as a part of the $3.5 billion earmarked for early childhood education in the CARES Act passed by Congress in late March to provide coronavirus relief to states. Now the state has to decide how to parcel out that fund. There are many opinions on how to spend the money.
Some think a large portion should be immediately funneled to childcare providers that need urgent help to stay operational during the COVID-19 quarantine. Others think providers in areas that don’t have many other options should be prioritized. Still, others think private providers serving middle-class areas should get the first crack at the money.
State officials say $13 million of the fund is spoken for, covering the cost of emergency childcare for essential workers, particularly healthcare workers. So far, the state has placed 5,000 children in emergency care, available tuition-free until May 17th. Another $12 million is going to the subsidy program for low-income families, which is administered by Colorado counties to ensure childcare providers are still paid even if their normal students aren’t showing up due to the pandemic.
Including all other already-approved expenditures from the federal fund, there will be about $16 million left over, according to state officials.
Many Areas Teetering
Despite relief efforts, many childcare providers and early childhood education organizations are still struggling. Some providers, such as those in Eagle County, were struggling to keep their doors open before the COVID-19 outbreak. Just as the stay-at-home orders were being issued across the state in mid-March, a survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, 33% of Colorado childcare providers said they couldn’t survive a closure of more than two weeks.
The outlook for many childcare providers around the state is grim, but if there’s a silver lining in all this for people like you trying to break into this field, it’s that everyone’s realizing the value that early education and childcare providers give to their communities. People will still need childcare when the pandemic is all over.