As a parent benefitting from Colorado’s new Universal Preschool funding, I have to say: the idea that Coloradans would be anything less than thrilled with the program is nothing short of madness.

When our program launched, Colorado became one of just four other states that devoted significant funding to early childhood education. Now some Coloradans are wringing their hands that Universal Preschool was not what they thought it would be, while casually ignoring that they never took the time to understand it.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of American parents have nothing comparable to Colorado’s Universal Preschool. It might be fashionable to cry foul at this new initiative, but detractors of the program come off as both ungrateful and inept, like people who do not read the instructions and are mad that their new furniture fell apart.

The most significant complaint with the program is not even a matter of reading the fine print, but rather the large type available from its inception. Colorado’s Universal Preschool program has always highlighted that parents and schools would be eligible for only 15 hours of subsidized preschool per week and must register online to be matched with a school.

Commentary from around the state keeps broadcasting the vocal minority of parents and school administrators that are aghast to not have full-time childcare, a match with a facility seemingly adjacent to their home, and zero paperwork. The alternative to this perceived inadequacy being the zero hours of preschool Colorado funded last year — the same number of hours funded by 45 other states.

To put this in real terms, last year my 3-year-old attended preschool only from 8:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m. — 15 hours per week. Tuition and fees for that year came to about $6,000.

This year, my now 4-year old attends “full-time” preschool. Annual cost: $10,000. The Universal Preschool program will cover $6,000. Our family will cover the remaining $4,000. That’s $2,000 less than our family paid last year. 

That is a tectonic shift in making early childhood education more affordable for families and more accessible to working parents. Relatively minor glitches in the first year of the program should not misdirect Coloradans from understanding our state has taken a massive leap forward in making early childhood education a reality for thousands of families.

As with any government program, there will be paperwork and deadlines. For all the tomatoes thrown at the registration process, the Universal Preschool website was astoundingly user friendly. The issues being reported with the registration and placement process have almost exclusively been matters of taking a horse to water and being unable to make it drink. Thousands of Colorado parents were able to successfully register and match with a preferred preschool, but a few latecomers feeling bogged down in bureaucratic minutiae have been the focus of the program’s first few days.

Instead of taking a well-deserved victory lap for the launch of a new, and rare, attempt to address early childhood education, the Polis Administration must now defend itself against the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver and, separately, a ragtag group of schools whose main argument seems to be: we want state money with no strings attached. Best of luck.

What more can the parents satisfied with Universal Preschool do but sit back and watch as a largely successful program is admonished? Just a few years ago Colorado did not even have full-day kindergarten and now we have taken the first step to invest in preschool and affordable childcare, an issue often preached about on the campaign trail and deprioritized once ballots are cast.

Perhaps the best thing for Coloradans now is to be reminded of a common preschool adage, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.” 

Barrett Rothe lives in Castle Pines.

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Barrett Rothe lives in Castle Pines.