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Preschool uses Colorado universal pre-K funding to increase teacher pay

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Posted at 5:16 PM, Sep 13, 2023

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — Inside the classrooms at New Hope Preschool, it looks like a bunch of fun. But it's also so much more.

"Preschool just lays the foundation for a lifelong love of learning," said Betsy Nachand, director of New Hope Preschool. "They learn basic skills like the alphabet and colors and shapes and that kind of thing. But really the most important part of preschool is the social and emotional learning that takes place on a daily basis."

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One Douglas County mother told Denver7 that Colorado's Universal Preschool (UPK) program made a huge difference for her family.

"It covers those four full half-days. That's like a car payment — it's pretty significant," said Brandy Hall. "Having to choose whether we have a decent vehicle or allow our daughter to go to preschool to help her learning and growth and development — you know, we don't want to have to make tho se kinds of decisions. So it's really taken a huge burden off of our shoulders."

She said it was important to find a pre-K that aligned with her family's values.

"I don't know if I would have accepted the care if there wasn't a faith-based program that would have been able to participate," said Hall.

Nachand explained she initially wasn't sure if New Hope would qualify to participate since it is a faith-based school.

"We didn't have any issues with that at all. No, it was pretty seamless," she said. "New Hope preschool is a ministry of New Hope Presbyterian Church, and one of the church's values is putting people first. So that was kind of a no-brainer to be able to do this."

Denver7 has reported on some faith-based schools having issues with participating in UPK. The Archdiocese of Denver and two parishes filed a lawsuit claiming provider requirements in the state's program violate their First Amendment rights.

"Another one of our values states that we err on the side of love. So yeah, we are an open and affirming church," said Nachand.

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Typically a 4-day program at New Hope would cost families $365 a month. By participating in the state's program, New Hope now can provide that service to some for free.

"I would not have been able to provide that financially for [my daughter] without this assistance," said Hall.

The state compensates schools to offset the cost of providing free pre-K. Nachand said the benefit is also being felt by the staff at New Hope.

"It's a field where the turnover rate is high. We have really amazing staff members, and it breaks my heart every time we lose someone, and it's often because of the level of pay," said Nachand.

New Hope said the reimbursement rate for the preschool students enrolled in UPK is more than what the school charged parents.

"With that extra income coming in, I've been able to give staff across the board about a $4 per hour raise," said Nachand.

Parents do have to apply to be able to get free preschool for students. Parents can apply at any time.

Click here for more information and a link to the application process.


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