Apr 29, 2022 - News

Reality check: Colorado's new preschool program faces obstacles

Illustration of a pattern for backpacks.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Colorado leaders are celebrating a new law signed this week to create "free, universal preschool," saying it will provide quality learning opportunities and help to get parents back to work.

Reality check: That's a long shot, at best.

What to know: Four other states with government-funded preschool programs — including someones operating for decades — never reached universal enrollment, fell short of meeting quality benchmarks and struggled to find qualified teachers.

Why it matters: The findings — from our education reporting partners at Chalkbeat — outline important caveats in the election-year claims from Democratic lawmakers and education leaders behind the new system launching in 2023.

Details: The most significant limitation is Colorado's plan to offer just 10 hours of schooling a week — or two hours a day — because such part-day programs don't work for many families.

  • "The half-day format is a nightmare for at least a third of all the parents we surveyed," said Beth Graue, director of the Center for Research on Early Childhood Education at the University of Wisconsin Madison.
  • In Wisconsin, which started its program four decades ago with 10 to 12 hours a week, 70% of 4- year-olds attend and the state met just three of 10 national quality benchmarks.

Go deeper with our partners at Chalkbeat


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Denver stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more