Colorado Department of Early Childhood

Infrastructure to Support Early Childhood Systems

  • Administrative + Governance Models


In 2019, Jared Polis was elected governor of Colorado; his first term in office saw the passage of several significant pieces of early childhood legislation, including the creation of the Colorado Department of Early Childhood. This new agency combined all early childhood programs previously housed in the departments of Human Services and Education. The Department Early Childhood and Universal Preschool Program (HB22-1295) bill created the new Department of Early Childhood responsible for implementing the state’s universal preschool program and included $13 million or key administrative functions.

High-level political leadership and a cabinet-level position paired with authority and commitment from the executive and the legislature can elevate and strengthen early childhood outcomes across the state or city. While the creation of a new department will not automatically create better outcomes for children, it can provide the structure and coordination needed to improve early education quality and accessibility across a state or city (Kagan, 2015).

Department Early Childhood And Universal Preschool Program | Colorado General Assembly
Early Childhood Leadership Commission (n.d.). Statewide Listening Tour.
Bipartisan Policy Center (2023). Integrated Efficient Early Care and Education Systems
Connors-Tadros, L., Northey, K., Frede, E., Hodges, K. & Jost, T. (2021). Effective State Offices of Early Learning: Structural Features, Enabling Conditions, and Key Functions in Four States. Research Report. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research.
Kagan, L. and Gomez, R. (Eds.). (2015) Early Childhood Governance: Choices and Consequences. Teachers College Press.

Connections to Key Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Findings:

Strong infrastructure and systems – including governance structures and data systems – are key aspects of high-quality early education and care. And research suggests there is a need for more accessible, affordable, and high-quality early education within a mixed-delivery system; strengthening infrastructure and systems is one important way states and cities can take action to address these needs and accomplish these goals.

Findings from the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) that connect to the need for more robust infrastructure and systems, including data systems:

  • Families rely on a range of formal (e.g., Head Start, center-based care, public pre-K) and more informal (e.g., home-based, relative care) early education settings; when choosing a setting for their child, families balance many logistical constraints and personal preferences.
  • But for many families – and especially low- and middle-income families – early education choices remain tightly constrained due to issues of affordability and supply.
  • No one early education setting type is inherently of higher quality than another; children develop and learn well in every setting type, and in the study, all setting types showed room to grow in quality.
  • We have learned a great deal from this groundbreaking, large-scale study. Nevertheless, there is still much to learn about what children, families, and educators need, and about what “works” – for whom and under what circumstances – across all the diverse settings where young children learn and grow.
Learn More about ELS@H Findings

Learn more about Colorado

Context matters. Visit the Colorado profile page to learn more about its demographics, political landscape, early education programs, early education workforce, and funding sources and streams.

Visit the Colorado Profile Here
  • The state population is 5,839,926
  • The percentage of children under 6 with all available parents in the workforce is 65%
  • The rural percentage is 14.0%