DENVER (CBS4) – Two new laws could help transform early childhood education in Colorado. They make what may be the state’s single biggest investment ever in childcare while also making changes to improve transparency and safety.
“Today is a big darn deal,” Executive Director of Human Services Michelle Barnes said as Gov. Jared Polis signed the laws on Wednesday.
A law by Reps. Kerry Tipper, Tonya Van Beber and Sens. Tammy Story and Jerry Sonnenberg provides more than $400 million in grants for salaries, education, recruitment and retention of childcare workers, employer-based childcare, and assistance for low-income families.
The Colorado Children’s Campaign says the average annual pay of a childcare worker in Colorado is about $25,000 – the equivalent of minimum wage. The annual turn-over rate in the industry is 30 percent. In addition to accessibility of childcare, affordability is an issue. Childcare is the biggest expense for many families.
“I can tell you that just today I almost wasn’t able to come here because of childcare issues,” Rep. Tipper said at a press conference at Precious Angles Pre-School in Lakewood, where the bill signings took place.
“This is the reason we do this,” she said pointing to kids at the pre-school. “This is life changing policy.”
The governor also signed a law aimed at improving accountability. Sens. Jessie Danielson and Brittany Pettersen and Reps. Mary Young and Andrew Boesenecker are sponsors of the Ellie Matthews Act. The law is named after a baby who died in a facility that had been issued three cease and desist orders, but the citations weren’t publicly posted.
“Instead of ending there and acknowledging the grief and pain, this woman and her family decided to take action, to do something about it to help protect other children,” said Danielson.
The new law will require the Department of Human Services to post all citations online and, facilities that don’t comply with the state’s orders could be shut down and providers charged.
The new laws are also aimed at helping Colorado’s economy. The Children’s Campaign says 32 percent of employees left the workforce last year, many of them moms, and half of them cited childcare concerns as the reason.