Home Education In 2023, Colorado is offering free universal preschools. What about Utah?

In 2023, Colorado is offering free universal preschools. What about Utah?


Beginning in 2023, Colorado will pay for 10 hours of preschool education per week for every 4-year-old child in the state, regardless of income.

Proponents say expanding access to early childhood education will help close gaps in achievement earlier, help students move away from the effects of the pandemic and improve structural equity in Colorado’s public education system.

The initiative will be partly funded by Fr. The increase in the nicotine tax was approved by voters in 2020, which by 2027 will triple the state tax on a pack of cigarettes to $ 2.64 and introduce new taxes and fees on smokeless tobacco and vaping products. It will also be funded by the existing state preschool education program, which caters to children with certain risk factors.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed a law to launch a universal preschool education initiative. Polis, a Democrat serving his first term, campaigned for free preschools.

“There is no better investment than investing in education and our children,” Polis said in Fr. KUSA-TV report.

Terry Mitchell, administrator of the Early Childhood School Canyon County in Utah, said the proposal is likely to give more Colorado children access to high-quality education, which is important as the country continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The children, who will turn 4 next year, were small when the pandemic began.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, they have missed quite a few things. As a result, they lost social opportunities. They missed an experience that they might have had normally with their families, but it was all closed and closed, ”Mitchell said.

Such experiences help prepare children for learning and become part of the learning community when they start school.

“We have noticed that even in Canyon School District we have increased the number of students with greater emotional and social needs in relation to their peers,” as well as delays in their language development, she said.

Mitchell said the benefits of early childhood education are well documented, but it is important that families have many options that respect their individual needs. Some children at this age find it difficult to self-regulate, and it may be unrealistic to expect them to cope with structured institutions in the classroom.

“My question is, do we adults create this problem for him and help him fail, are there other ways to help him succeed?” Said Mitchell.

Colorado’s systems approach

Colorado has taken a systematic approach to the education of young children, said Anna Thomas, a senior analyst at the nonprofit child protection program Voices for Children of Utah.

Earlier during the Polis term, the Colorado General Assembly expanded the kindergarten to a full day with government funding. The next milestone in the plan, she said, was a universal preschool. The newly approved legislation also established the State Department of Preschool.

“We do not have such a systematic approach in Utah. We are still struggling to make our state leaders, particularly the leadership in the legislature, understand that in order to do well in first grade, many children in the state need a lot of help in kindergarten that you can’t do in two and an hour and a half, ‘said Thomas.

As Colorado prepares to launch universal preschools, Utah plans to somewhat expand its full-day kindergarten offerings by providing an additional $ 12.2 million approved during a recent general session of the Utah Legislature.

Currently, Utah public schools give 30% of students access to full-time kindergartens compared to the rest of the country, where 80% of students have access to full-time programs. Educators sought funding to expand the program nationwide, but lawmakers allocated much less than $ 23 million in current funding requested by the Utah Board of Education.

Some school districts have decided to offer full-time kindergarten programs on their own, paving the way for local, state, and federal funding and grants to support the program.

For example, the school district of Wasatch offers a full-time kindergarten from 2018. While some parents initially preferred the traditional noon program for their children, now only a few parents are asking for such an opportunity. The vast majority of kindergarten children in the district attend full daysaccording to superintendent Paul Pot.

A public opinion poll conducted for “Voices for Children of Utah” also shows high support for public preschools.

A 1976 Utah state poll last summer found that among parents whose children are not yet old enough for K-12, 70% would send their children to public preschools if they had the opportunity. At the same time, 66% of older preschoolers said so too.

A huge 90% of respondents found kindergarten programs useful, with 51% saying they were very useful and 39% to some degree. The permissible error of the Y2 Analytics survey is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

Thomas said it makes her “really, very happy for the children and families in Colorado who will benefit” from the state’s early learning initiative.

“I think Colorado will see a way in the future, you know, in 20, 30, 40 years, but their staff will reap the rewards of children who have that kind of support in early life. I will be glad to see what they do when they install it and arrange the inflections, ”she said.

Preschool in the Canyons area

The Canyon District offers preschool programs in 22 classes spread over 12 schools. About 900 children between the ages of 3 and 5 are enrolled, and families have the option of sending their children two days a week or four days a week. Each class lasts 2.5 hours, morning and afternoon classes are offered. Children can attend only 2.5 hours a day, and the program follows the same educational calendar as the K-12 district schools.

The district provides free preschool services to children with disabilities and those living within Section I. Other families may choose to attend preschool and are charged a tuition fee that starts at $ 100 per month for two days of attendance.

All classes are a mixture of students with disabilities and students without them, which, according to Mitchell, benefits all students.

“Our students who pay for tuition are excellent role models, social role models, language role models for our students with disabilities. They learn empathy for students … which are different, right? They learn to be defenders or warriors for students with disabilities. I really think it shapes the culture of inclusion, ”she said.

Theoretically, Colorado preschoolers should benefit from a universal curriculum, but maintaining a stable workforce of educators and assistants in the preschool education segment creates challenges.

Most of the teachers who run preschool classes in the Canyon area are licensed educators, which means they receive salaries and benefits. Many teachers were paraprofessionals whom Mitchell persuaded to graduate and become teachers. “We seem to have grown our own,” she said, noting that there is a low turnover among licensed teachers.


Ana Swasteki’s paraprofessional education professional (left) plays with students at Sandy Elementary School on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

But class assistants found it difficult to retain enough staff, and sometimes Mitchell was forced to fill classes this school year. This is a problem across the state, she said, explaining that several school districts in Utah offer some form of preschool program.

Labor shortages could affect Colorado’s plans to offer preschool services to every 4-year-old, but Mitchell believes Colorado officials understand the value of preschool education.

“I think it’s great that Colorado has found a way to provide this for families. I think it’s great. I think it can really benefit children, ”she said.

The Utah Legislature is funding the Waterford Upstart Home Education Technology Technology Program to develop preschoolers ’readiness skills for school. It is offered free of charge to Utah families, and the provider can provide laptops and Internet connections to qualified students.

Upstart is a great learning tool for kids, “but it’s not preschool and doesn’t replace preschool. It can be an app. It can be a wonderful family affair where parents can work with their children and help them learn. It’s not preschool, just not, ”Thomas said.

If Utah is serious about investing in children, it will say “yes” to a full range of programs and services such as Upstart, preschools and full-time kindergartens, and “don’t choose the smallest investment we can. and hope this helps. “”

Governor Spencer Cox’s address to the state in 2022 called for a new office to support families, ensuring that “public policy does not harm families and that we coordinate public services to help parents and children succeed,” he said. he.

Thomas said she has not yet heard any further action on the proposal, and it is unclear how preschool education will fit into the plan.

‘I have not seen any signs from the governor’s office or the legislature that they are really serious about investing in young children, their education and health to ensure that in 20, 30, 40, 50 years the Line that seven’ and Utah have what they need to be happy and successful.

“So we’re very happy for them (families in Colorado) and feel, ‘Will we ever get to Utah?’

Correction: In a previous version, it was incorrectly stated that families who choose to attend preschool in Canyon County are charged a tuition fee starting at $ 100 per week for two days. Tuition starts at $ 100 a month for two days.

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