Colorado makes changes to universal preschool enrollment process

Posted at 5:30 PM, Jan 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-18 11:14:20-05

DENVER — Colorado’s universal preschool program (UPK), which had a rocky rollout last year, is making changes in an attempt to improve the enrollment process.

Parents can pre-register their children for the 2024-2025 school year.

“All of our providers are pre-registering,” said Dr. Lisa Roy, executive director of the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC), which oversees the program.

Roy said the changes will streamline the process, decrease work for providers and make things more fair for families.

"Parents will notice a smoother process, and so will our providers," said Roy.

Parents can see the different stages of the enrollment process through the UPK website.

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Denver Public Schools began accepting applications for its preschool program last Thursday.

“All ECE families will need to participate in DPS SchoolChoice to be matched with their preferred school for the 2024-25 school year,” the district said in a release.

The district said applying for the first round of the process “offers families the best chance of obtaining a seat at their desired preschool program.” The district said after families apply for the first round of the process, it would contact them to provide the next steps.

Last summer, just weeks before school started, many parents learned their children wouldn’t be able to attend a full day of preschool as expected. Instead, they were only able to enroll in a half day. The state said there wasn’t enough funding to meet the demand, which was much higher than expected.

Nearly 40,000 4-year-olds — roughly 62% of that age group’s population — enrolled in preschool last year, according to the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC).

“Serving more than 60% of children in the first year is quite an accomplishment. And it wasn't without its bumps, but we did it,” said Roy. “We're very proud of what we were able to do.”



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The department hopes to enroll more 4-year-olds next year.

“We would love to expand the number of students we are currently serving,” said Roy.

The department is asking lawmakers for a $32 million increase in funding to help it do that. The department is also proposing a new rule that could give an additional 3,000 children access to full-day preschool next year.

In addition, the department hopes to increase the number of early childhood workers by 4% by June 20. Roy said this would help ensure the lowest-income families have access.

Since voters approved Proposition II in November 2023, the state will retain about $24 million in cigarette, tobacco, and nicotine taxes to use for the preschool program.

Colorado makes changes to universal preschool enrollment process

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