House Advances Budget to Support K-12 Schools

April 26, 2024

The FY 2024-2025 Long Appropriations Bill in Colorado prioritizes funding for various areas, including a significant allocation towards universal preschool programs and early childhood services. While this allocation enhances access to early childhood education, there may be potential increased childcare costs for younger children due to rising labor expenses. However, the bill also includes positive implications, such as increased funding for the Colorado Department of Early Childhood and a pay raise for early childhood professionals through the Colorado Childcare Assistance Program. Overall, the budget reflects a commitment to improving early childhood education and childcare services in the state. By Sadie Smith. This story is sponsored by Tafoya Barrett & Associates and Happy Pappy's Pizza and Wings.

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Colorado has taken steps to advance a budget that will enhance early childhood education and child services. The Long Appropriations Bill is set to take effect at the start of the fiscal year on July 1st, 2024. You're watching the Local News Network, brought to you by Tafoya Barrett and Associates and Happy Pappy's Pizza n Wings. I'm Sadie Smith. The 2024-25 state budget prioritizes funding for key areas such as K-12 education, higher education, mental health services, support for individuals with disabilities, and the Colorado state parks.

The Long Bill does include some increases for universal preschool, for early childhood workforce development, and some additional funding for a provider rate increase. In La Plata County, that'll have an impact on programs that accept childcare assistance program funding, as well as providers who are offering universal preschool seats here in our community, childcare centers and district preschools.

This year's budget includes an additional $65.5 million towards the Universal Preschool Program. The money will go towards enhancing provider payments, quality improvement initiatives, and improvements to the online application process.

I think that the infusion of federal funding has impacted the affordability of childcare for the past three to four years. I believe that the stabilization funds that programs have received have allowed them to stabilize their tuition, and to not pass on the increasing costs of care to their families.

While the focus on universal preschool in the budget is beneficial for expanding access to early childhood education, it may unintentionally lead to increased childcare costs for younger children. The cost will come about due to the associated rise in labor expenses.

I think that there is a chance with this new budget, which focuses primarily on universal preschool, that the cost of care for the youngest children in our community could go up, because the cost of the workforce is going up. We are not competitive with other industries, but the workforce shortage and the low employment rates have required centers to offer more hourly wage and more benefits to keep their teachers with them.

The bill does have some positive implications for the Universal Preschool Program and some benefits for the Colorado Department of Early Childhood, a new department in Colorado.

The budget does present one significant opportunity for early childhood programs and the children accessing those programs here in La Plata County. I would say that the most significant will be the operational budget at the Colorado Department of Early Childhood. It's a new department in the state. It is still standing up its operations, and by providing a significant increase in their budget, we will have additional support locally. That support will probably be primarily with our Universal Preschool Program. It has been a heavy lift both at a state level and a local level, and it has a huge technology component that requires a lot of maintenance and enhancement.

The early childhood sector has received significant funding from the federal government over the last four years. The funding was primarily utilized to keep programs operational during periods of low enrollment, ensuring compliance with public health requirements.

I think the decrease of that federal funding, which has been passed through from the state for the last three or four years will have an impact. Those final payments will be coming to providers in the next month or so, and by the beginning of the next state fiscal year, July 1st, programs will be operating strictly on tuition budgets and grants that they can be awarded from foundations here in the State of Colorado. So anytime that we have a decrease in funding going directly to childcare centers, it can have an impact on the salaries that they can offer their workforce. It can have an impact on the tuition rates that they charge families. So I wouldn't be surprised if there are some programs that have to consider tuition rate increases, particularly right now with our inflation rate as high as it is, and with our unemployment rate as low as it is.

In addition to these benefits, the bill also includes a $21.1 million increase for the Colorado Childcare Assistance Program. The increase includes a 2% pay raise for early childhood professionals and boost funding for other early childhood initiatives. For more information about this and other stories, visit DurangoLocal.News. Thank you for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Sadie Smith.


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