Is early childhood having a moment?

by Cami Harris, Senior Communications Manager

Have you heard anyone say recently that early childhood is “having a moment?” No? Well, it may be that we’re on the cusp of one.

It’s no secret that our sector has had it rough over the last 18+ months, and even before the pandemic we knew things were not 100% rosy. And now we are seeing new reports of more women dropping out of the workforce in large part due to lack of stable child care. In a recent post we talked about the all too familiar challenges in early childhood and offered some steps for improvement. We asked readers to acknowledge how important child care is in our economic recovery and growth, continue to advocate for sustained public investment, and step up appreciation (in other words, better wages) for the important work of early childhood educators. But how do we get there?

While it might be easy to slide into a pessimistic state of mind over the current crisis, there is real, tangible hope for the future of child care, and here in Colorado it is coming in the form of targeted funding strategies, the creation of a new single state agency dedicated to early childhood, and universal pre-K.

So, what exactly is happening?

First, let’s talk about early childhood stimulus funding. The Colorado Office of Early Childhood (OEC) has received ($119 million from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) and $45 million from Colorado House Bill 20B-1002). Colorado is also getting $275 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) Funding.

This is a BIG DEAL, folks! And thanks to input from many of you, plans are in the works to get funds directly into providers’ hands and increase access for families. You can dive into more detail about the funding strategies and find a recording, slides, and links shared during a recent OEC town hall meeting. Denver’s Early Childhood Council will be monitoring progress on these allocations and doing our part to share more information and facilitate opportunities where and when appropriate.

Emerging & Expanding (E & E) child care grant funding is designated to expand access and availability of licensed child care throughout Colorado, especially in child care deserts.

This grant prioritizes funding for programs:

  • increasing the number of infant and toddler slots
  • those that are in child care deserts
  • those serving children with special needs
  • that have projects where additional funds are being contributed beyond E & E
  • that operate full day
  • seeking upgrades/remodels (new construction is not covered)

Distribution of funding will be balanced between family child care homes and centers. Do you have questions about a specific project that you think might qualify for E & E? Contact us! We’re here to help you sort things out and assist with the application process.

In addition to funding, don’t forget about the creation of a new unified state department to oversee early childhood care and education, which includes Colorado’s voter-approved universal preschool program, set to begin in 2023. There is much planning to be done, and more will be asked of community stakeholders to aid in the success of these efforts. The Early Childhood Leadership Commission will be hosting a Statewide Listening Tour October 11-15, with in-person and virtual opportunities to share progress and collect feedback from the interested public. We hope you will join.

There is light at the end of this tunnel, and we know it will take work. We are in this together. Let’s seize the moment and build the early childhood system of our dreams – one that truly supports the economy in a wholistic way, one that includes the well-being and sustainability of our ECE workforce, one that includes access for all families regardless of income, and one that provides for the healthy, happy development of our children.