Preschoolers read books in their classroom at Shawsheen Elementary in Greeley on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (Valerie Mosley, Special to the Colorado Sun)

A multimillion federal grant, combined with an $11 million state match, could pump nearly $50 million into Colorado early childhood efforts over the next three years. Federal officials will announce grant awards by the end of December.

One thing the birth-to-5 grants won’t do is create large numbers of new preschool and child care slots. That’s because the pot of money — a total of $206 million for 23 states in the first year — is too small.

“You can build some good infrastructure with this money,” said Simon Workman, director of early childhood policy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. “What you can’t do is significantly expand services to children because that costs a lot more money.”

To make child care available to a large proportion of working families, he said, “you’re talking hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars per state.”

The new money will come from the federal Preschool Development Birth through Five grant program, which was established under the 2015 federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. Forty-six states, including Colorado, won federal planning grants last year to help them craft applications for the larger renewal grants available now.


Ann Schimke is a senior reporter at Chalkbeat Colorado covering early childhood education. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and the Denver Post. She holds a master’s degree in education policy from the University...