Does Colorado’s New Universal Pre-K Program Save Families Money?

Analyzing Tennessee's SB 623.
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State Representative Emily Sirota [D] claimed that Colorado’s HB22-1295, passed into law by Governor Jarid Polis on April 25, saves Colorado families money. Rocky Mountain PBS specifies the amount saved annually is, on average, $4,300.

The Chalkboard Review staff have reviewed these claims and the “Department Early Childhood and Universal Preschool Program” and have found:

While Brightwheel suggests that the average monthly cost of pre-Kindergarten is $1,575 per month, (with prices ranging from $458 to $2,371), the cost per taxpayer in Colorado has not yet been illustrated by Colorado’s legislature in specific—though an early estimate and pre-allocation is estimated at $167,225,493. While families with 3 & 4-year-old children in state-approved pre-K will pay less for childcare, all other Colorado families will pay more in taxes.

According to HB22-1295, the State of Colorado is now required to found a new Department of Early Childhood, including an executive director of the department, and make provisions to provide for universal pre-Kindergarten care (including facilities, staff, standards, supplies, and new infrastructure as deemed necessary by the new department).

In addition to the new director, a fifteen-member advisory council will be appointed by the director to “promulgate rules of the department and the programs administered by the department.” 

Other new costs imposed by the legislation include an electronic application system, “securing additional local resources”, allocating funding to existing providers, recruiting and retaining a “mixed delivery system of private preschool program providers”, an online kindergarten-readiness pilot program, and funding “family-strengthening home visiting programs”. 

The State of Colorado also reserves the right to define “annual(ly) established per-child rates for universal preschool services”. On average, the State of Colorado currently spends $8,489 per student per year in K-12 public programs.

The funding for Pre-K students covers children 3 and 4-years-old, including IEP and 504 disability students (as well as their identification and treatment).

Annually, Colorado’s Department of Education is allocated a budget of $7.6 billion, with $3 billion of those funds from Colorado tax payers. 40% of Colorado property taxes currently go towards public education.

If the average property tax is ~$1,437 per Colorado citizen, the average citizen contributes ~$574.80 annually. Even if this number were doubled (a stretch) with the new department and its services, this would be less for a family than the annual costs of between $15,000 and $20,000. 

This analysis does not account for Federal allocation, and the per-citizen tax increase from such, which cannot yet be accurately determined yet.

Therefore, while Colorado’s new universal Pre-K department and services bill lowers the cost for families who would choose to use the new Departments approved pre-K care facilities (under State-approved caretakers), additional costs per year should be expected for all Colorado families and citizens—regardless of whether they have children of their own in pre-K.

Chalkboard Review Staff
The Chalkboard Review Staff often collaborate on Read the Bill and report articles to ensure multiple perspectives and founded data points are presented.