Effective July 1, 2022, the act creates the department of early childhood (new department) to:
- Provide early childhood opportunities;
- Coordinate the availability of early childhood programs and services throughout Colorado;
- Establish state and community partnerships for a mixed delivery of child care and early childhood programs through school- and community-based providers;
- Prioritize the interests and input of children, parents, providers, and the community in designing and delivering early childhood services and programs;
- Prioritize the equitable delivery of resources and supports for early childhood; and
- Unify the administration of early childhood programs and services.
The act moves the early childhood leadership commission (commission) to the new department, effective July 1, 2022.
The act creates a transition working group (working group), consisting of the co-chairs of the commission and representatives of certain state agencies and the governor's office, and directs the co-chairs of the commission to convene a transition advisory group (advisory group).The act directs the working group, working with a consultant and with the advice of the advisory group, to develop a transition plan (plan) for the coordination and administration of early childhood services and programs by the new department and the departments of education, human services, and public health and environment, including, to the extent necessary, the transition of existing programs and services to the new department. The act includes specific requirements for the plan.
The governor's office must submit the plan to the joint budget committee as part of the governor's 2022 budget request, and the working group must submit the plan to the commission for approval. As soon as practicable after the plan is approved, the governor's office must submit the approved plan to the joint budget committee with any necessary budget request amendments. The working group must submit the approved plan to other committees of the general assembly by November 15, 2021, and must meet with the early childhood and school readiness legislative commission by December 1, 2021, to present the plan.
The act also directs the working group, working with the consultant and with the advice of the advisory group, to develop recommendations for a new voluntary, universal preschool program (recommendations) to be funded partially by the recently increased sales tax on tobacco and operated by the new department beginning in the 2023-24 school year. The act specifies requirements that the new preschool program must meet. The working group must also convene and work with a subgroup that focuses on issues relating to serving children with disabilities through the new preschool program. The working group must submit the recommendations to the commission for approval and must then submit the recommendations to the joint budget committee and other committees of the general assembly by January 15, 2022.
The act requires the governor's office to contract with one or more private entities to consult with the working group in developing and implementing the plan and in developing the recommendations and to analyze the current use of existing early childhood programs in the state.
For the 2021-22 fiscal year, to implement the act, there is appropriated from the general fund:
- $587,500, with the assumption of an additional 3.6 FTE, to the office of the governor;
- $267,161, with the assumption of an additional 1.2 FTE, to the office of early childhood in the department of human services; and
- $96,867, with the assumption of an additional 0.9 FTE, to the department of education.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)