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

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