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On September 16, 2021, we had the privilege of hosting a virtual conversation with Jennifer Stedron of Early Milestones Colorado where we gained insight into the future of early childhood education in Colorado.  

What is the status of ECE in Colorado? 

The pandemic revealed a sad truth that was already known by too many in our state – access to early childhood education and quality child care is far from equal and remains a critical quality of life issue for thousands of families across Colorado. The state of Colorado did pass legislation to support Universal Pre-K and is adding a new government office for early childhood education, but substantial work needs to be done to achieve truly universal access. 

What are some of the challenges to making ECE truly available to all?

Many barriers remain and it will take years of work, funding and creativity to reach key goals. Challenges include: 

    • Many early childhood centers are in danger of closing because enrollment has dropped throughout the pandemic – this is happening as the state hopes to ramp up the number of providers.
    • Many licensed ECE providers are unsure if they will participate in government supported programs for fear of burdensome paperwork and operating standards.
    • Around 50% of CO families rely on Friends, Family and Neighbors (FFN) to provide childcare support. These unlicensed providers cannot currently access the funding provided through government initiatives.
    • There’s a large shortage of ECE educators and many choose to work in better-paying jobs with public K-12 institutions.

So what solutions are there and what’s being done? 

A combination of state-led and privately funded initiatives are underway to support needed change. Colorado received a large amount of federal funding to support various ECE programs.  Organizations like Impact Charitable are also considering ways to provide direct cash assistance to FFN providers and Early Milestones is working on other avenues for supporting this critical network via state funds. Their Workforce Innovation Grants program also highlights some of the creative approaches local organizations are taking to create – and support – the workforce we need. 

Want to learn more? 

Check out the full event recording for a lot more detail and insights!