Skip to contents
Education

Colorado’s public preschool program was poised for growth. Will coronavirus derail everything?

In Colorado, where lawmakers are preparing for a budget hit of as much as $3 billion, the potential impact on recent early childhood gains is unclear.

Calvin Moreno and Maria Flores-Rodriguez clean up after an activity in their preschool classroom at Shawsheen Elementary in Greeley on Thursday, December 12, 2019. (Valerie Mosley/Special to the Colorado Sun)

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. Sign up for their newsletters here: ckbe.at/newsletters

Gov. Jared Polis took office last year with an ambitious early childhood agenda. In addition to free statewide full-day kindergarten, he sought a major expansion of Colorado’s state-funded preschool program.

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTINGHere’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • VACCINE HOTLINE: Get up-to-date information.

>> FULL COVERAGE

Now, everything from the state’s day-to-day priorities to its economic forecast has shifted, throwing the state’s preschool gains and plans for the future into question.

It’s a common storyline around the country right now, and national experts are worried that rollbacks in state-funded preschool seats and quality improvements will come at a time when more children than ever need strong early education programs.

W. Steven Barnett, senior co-director of the National Institute of Early Education Research at Rutgers University, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic and the current and looming economic crisis pose considerable threat to state-funded pre-K.”

Asked about the likelihood of a new dedicated federal funding stream to protect public preschool enrollment and quality initiatives — one recommendation in a report released Wednesday by the research institute — Barnett didn’t sound particularly optimistic.

“Greater than zero is my best estimate,” he said. “The opportunity is to put some kind of set-aside in a larger pool [of money], whether it’s education dollars or human services dollars.”

In Colorado, where lawmakers are preparing for a budget hit of as much as $3 billion, the potential impact on recent early childhood gains is unclear.

Read the rest of the story here.


The Colorado Sun has no paywall, meaning readers do not have to pay to access stories. We believe vital information needs to be seen by the people impacted, whether it’s a public health crisis, investigative reporting or keeping lawmakers accountable.

This reporting depends on support from readers like you. For just $5/month, you can invest in an informed community.