The Bell Calls on Colorado Legislature to Invest in Child Care, Early Childhood Education

With debate over what to do with growing revenue projections for Colorado, the Bell Policy Center along with Colorado Children’s Campaign and Executives Partnering to Invest in Children (EPIC) feel it’s important for the voices of families and children to be heard. Together, the three ask the Colorado legislature use the increased revenues to fund important programs in child care and early childhood education in the FY 2018-19 budget.

Money spent on children under age 4 have an enormous return on investment, including less reliance on social services later in life and an economic boost by allowing parents the time and ability to work. The programs outlined in the letter would do wonders for Colorado’s long-term economic health, and these smart investments by the Colorado legislature would be an important step toward helping those who have been hurt most — children — by the chronic underfunding of Colorado’s public services.

How the Colorado Legislature Can Invest More in Children:

  • Expand access to child care assistance. The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) is a crucial work support and economic development program for parents across Colorado. Unfortunately, it only serves 13 percent of eligible families. Colorado Joint Budget Committee staff estimate an infusion of $42 million could help eliminate existing waitlists and increase the percent of eligible families served to more closely match the demand for child care in the general public.
  • Expand access to the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) and the Early Childhood At-Risk Enhancement (ECARE) Program. The Colorado Preschool Program (CPP), designed to subsidize costs for low-income families, only serves 20 percent of Colorado’s 3- and 4-year-olds. With an additional $15 million to $20 million investment, Colorado would eradicate the current CPP waitlist. Putting $32 million toward the program would enable all eligible 4-year-olds to be served in a half-day program, putting these kids on the path toward success.
  • Relieve pressure on families paying for child care. Nearly 64 percent of Colorado children under the age of six live in a home where all primary caregivers work. Recent analysis shows Coloradans’ wage and income growth isn’t on pace with child care and other household costs. Tax credits for child care costs exist at the state and federal level, and while not a panacea, help families with the high cost of care. HB 18-1208 would extend eligibility for the state credit to middle-income Coloradans and make it more generous for all who are eligible to claim it. With a $21 million investment, the state could help relieve this financial pressure on many Colorado families.
  • Improving quality of early childhood education jobs. In 2016, the mean salary for early child care workers was only $26,672 which was just over half of the average for all Colorado occupations. Furthermore, nearly one-third of Colorado families live in a child care desert, defined as “neighborhoods or communities that are either lacking any child care options or have so few providers that there are more than three children for every licensed child care spot.” These problems could be alleviated through spending money on, and incentivizing people to enter, the early childhood workforce. The legislature should create an Early Childhood Educator Tax Credit to mitigate the low wages paid to these workers at a cost of $8 million to 10 million. A wage subsidy program, funded at $20 million, or $3,595 annually for each worker, would help recruit, retain, and reward early childhood educators. Better wages would lessen turnover, which can improve the quality and continuity of child care, and would reduce the financial squeeze on workers and our state budget, as low wages lead to an increased need for public assistance.

You can read the letter the Bell, Colorado Children’s Campaign, and EPIC sent to members of Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee below.

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