Ian Patrick, FISM News
The Colorado government’s offering of free, part-time preschool care was met with more interest than initially expected.
The initiative, known as “universal preschool,” offers “at least 15 hours per week of free, voluntary preschool for 4 year olds” according to the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC). It also allows for 10 hours of preschool for qualifying 3 year olds.
Applications for the program launched on Tuesday to an early rate of success among American families. Almost 12,000 applications were submitted on Tuesday alone, well above expectations.
“We’re pleasantly surprised,” said CDEC executive director Lisa Roy according to reporting from The Colorado Sun.
“We think it’s an excellent indicator of family interest,” Roy added.
Chalkbeat Colorado originally reported that the state government was expecting around 30,000 children to opt into the program, representing about half of currently eligible children in the state.
Roy added that Colorado families are “giving us an indicator that our initial projections are lower than what the uptake will be,” something she referred to as “exciting.”
The Sun reports that 1,477 child care providers have thus far offered their services for the program, and CDEC says that another 1,000 have started but not finished their applications to offer their services.
Melissa Mares, director of early childhood initiatives for the Colorado Children’s Campaign, said all of these providers will likely ensure 60,000 openings available for kids across the state.
Governor Jared Polis commented on the program during his State of the State address on Tuesday.
And thanks to Rep. Sirota, Sen. Janet Buckner, President Fenberg, so many others, and of course, the people of Colorado, free preschool … will save families at least $6,000 a year and give every child the best possible start in life.
The first round of applications closes on February 14. The program was funded by a law approved by Colorado voters in 2020 which raised taxes on nicotine-based products.