Enrichment Education

Colorado begins enrollment for universal preschool

Officials expect the program to serve 30,000 4-year-olds
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Story at a glance

  • Colorado parents can submit applications for the state’s forthcoming tuition-free preschool program.  

  • The program is set to start in the summer of 2024.  

  • Under the program, most 4-year-olds will be eligible for 10 to 15 hours of free preschool a week.  

Colorado parents can now submit applications for the state’s new free preschool program.  

The program, which is set to officially launch next summer, offers a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 15 hours of free preschool a week for most 4-year-olds in the state.  

Colorado officials expect the $335 million

the program will serve 30,000 4–year-olds during its inaugural year with hopes of enrolling more in the future.  

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That number translates to 1,500 classrooms with 20 students each. The current Colorado Preschool Program serves 18,636 children or about 1,165 classrooms with 16 children each.  

Colorado is partially funding the replacement preschool program with a nicotine tax which voters approved in 2020 and will start this fall.  

Under the program, some 4-year-olds will be eligible for up to 30 hours a week of free preschool while some 3-year-olds will be able to receive 10 hours a week, according to the Colorado Department of Early Childhood.  

Parents can apply for the program, also called universal pre-k, the year before their child is eligible to enter kindergarten.  

Colorado is a recent addition to the growing list of states rolling out universal pre-k programs.  

Some states say that they offer a universal pre-k program but funding issues and enrollment caps prevent all eligible children from being served, according to EducationWeek.  

Usually, for a universal pre-k program to be considered truly universal it must be serving at least 70 percent of 4-year-olds enrolled in kindergarten.  

Only Washington D.C., and six states, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin, reached this benchmark prior to the pandemic, according to The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University 2021 State of Preschool Report.  

Hawaii put forward a plan on Tuesday to make tuition-free preschool available to all 3-and-4-year-olds in the states by 2032.