Report | October 30, 2023

Early Childhood Educators Set Colorado Kids on the Path to Success

A highly-qualified, well-compensated teaching staff is key to quality early care and education

Quality early care and education (ECE) can strengthen Colorado’s current and future workforce, contribute to a strong state economy and public safety, and enhance national security. Increasing investments in Colorado’s early education system will help it better meet the needs of children, families, and educators. When families cannot access or afford the child care they need, parents’ work productivity falls, resulting in costs to parents, their employers, and taxpayers. Lack of access to preschool places children from families with low incomes at risk of starting school already behind their more advantaged peers. Inadequate compensation and subpar working conditions for educators results in high levels of turnover, impacting the quality of programs.

The escalating costs and limited availability of child care present ongoing challenges for Coloradans in our communities. This crisis has far-reaching effects on families, caregivers, and employers. Prioritizing solutions to strengthen the workforce will be a crucial step in addressing this problem.

Debbie Brown, President, Colorado Business Roundtable

There are other consequences as well. Colorado jails are full of people convicted of serious and costly crimes. It doesn’t have to be that way. Providing at-risk children with high-quality ECE opportunities can help reduce the human and fiscal costs of crime in the future by setting children up for success in school and beyond. Further, our national security relies on qualified young adults who are ready, willing, and able to serve in the U.S. military. However, educational deficits, health issues, and other problems (substance misuse and crime) prevent at least 70 percent of Colorado youth from qualifying for service (this latest state data is from 2017; the current level of ineligibility is likely higher). Healthy early development sets the stage for children’s future success. Without improvements to the ECE system, our nation risks having an even smaller military recruiting pool in the future.

We need strategic investments in early childhood, including to strengthen the workforce, to ensure that our children are on a path to success and stay out of the criminal justice system.

Bob Brammer, Chief of Police, Durango Police Department

Research shows that to have a real impact, ECE programs must be high quality, in order to help children develop the critical academic and social skills needed for success in school and life. A fundamental feature of ECE quality is highly-qualified teachers who are well-trained both before and during their service and who need to be adequately compensated. Quite simply, to hire the best talent requires adequate investment. Colorado policymakers must address the needs of the ECE workforce to ensure that families have the programs they need, parents can work, and children can be set on the path to success. In particular, Colorado’s ECE workforce solutions must include meaningful preparation, ongoing professional development, and sufficient compensation. Action and innovation now can improve the experiences of Colorado children today and strengthen our state in the years to come.

Our children deserve the opportunity to be successful in any career they choose, including the military. Investments in early childhood, including the workforce, can produce the strong leaders we need.

Brigadier General (Ret.) James M. Johnston, U.S. Air Force


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