FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, July 10, 2006
Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, Mayor’s Office
Mayor Hickenlooper Announces Preschool Proposal
(DENVER) Following the recommendations of a mayoral task force charged with increasing preschool access among Denver’s four-year-olds, Mayor John Hickenlooper announced Monday that he will forward the group’s proposal to City Council for possible referral to the November ballot.
Hickenlooper appointed the Mayor’s Leadership Team on Early Childhood Education in January 2004. For the past two-and-a-half years, this broad-based group of civic, business and education leaders has been researching opportunities to increase access to quality early childhood education, leading to the proposed ballot initiative which now moves to City Council for consideration.
“We are very proud of the work the leadership team has done on the issue of access for families to quality preschool education,” said Hickenlooper. “Education is absolutely the key to our future – and ensuring that Denver parents have access to quality affordable pre-school for their children is a critical part of improving our public schools, increasing economic opportunity, and reducing burdens on our public safety and criminal justice systems. Early childhood education’s documented return on investment leads me to support this initiative, and I know many on City Council are eager to champion this issue as well.”
Pending City Council referral, the proposed ballot question would ask Denver voters to raise the sales tax rate 0.12 percent (1.2 cents on every $10 purchase) to fund a high quality, parental choice preschool program for Denver’s four-year-olds. This dedicated revenue stream would raise approximately $12 million per year to be used primarily for tuition credits for families and quality improvement funds for providers.
Denver City Council will hear the proposed ballot question in a joint meeting of the Youth & Community Services Committee and the Finance Committee on Tuesday, July 11, 2006, at 1:30 p.m. If approved by the committee, the ordinance would then go to Mayor-Council and be followed by two readings in front of Council before potentially being placed on the November 2006 ballot.
Key components of the proposal include:
- The goals of the Denver Preschool Program are (1) to maximize access to and participation in quality pre-school programs for all four year-old children in the City and County of Denver and (2) to support quality improvement of preschool programs available to those children.
- The program is open to any Denver child for the one year of preschool before they are eligible to enter a public kindergarten program (note – in most cases, this covers four- year-old children).
- The program is funded with a 0.12 percent sales tax (12 cents on every $100 purchase) which would raise approximately $12 million per year. If passed, Denver’s sales tax will remain highly competitive with other Front Range communities.
- The Program uses the tax revenue for:
- Tuition credits
- Outreach & enrollment
- Quality improvement system:
- Introduction to quality
- Quality rating
- Quality improvement – direct technical assistance & grants
- Accountability, measurement and reporting (internal & external)
- Amount of the tuition credits is determined by (1) the need of the family and (2) the quality of the preschool program. Tuition credits operate on a sliding scale. The lower the income of a family, the higher the tuition credit; the higher quality preschool program, the higher the tuition credit. As such, the highest tuition credit will be available to a low-income family sending their child to a high-quality program
- The tuition credits will work with Headstart, CCAPP, the Colorado Preschool Program and all other current funding for early childhood education and childcare programs.
- Parents can choose the preschool program that works best for their child and family. Any state-licensed provider is eligible to participate. This includes public, private, for-profit, non-profit, home-based, center-based, school-based and faith-based providers.
- Providers will be required to participate in a three-part quality improvement system that includes (1) an introduction to quality practices, (2) an objective quality rating, and (3) a quality improvement plan. Funding for the rating and quality improvement plan implementation will be available.
- The Denver Preschool Program will contract with a qualified company to design and implement the quality improvement system.
- The Program will be administered by an independent mayoral-appointed, council-approved Board of Directors, who will make all financial decisions, and Board of Advisors, who will advise on all policy issues, similar to the Denver Metro Convention and Visitor’s Bureau model. The Board of Directors and Board of Advisors will play a role in helping to establish objective criteria for the quality rating.
- The Program will be accountable to taxpayers by reporting annually on (1) the number of children enrolled in preschool (2) the number of quality rated providers (3) the academic success of children who attend preschool, and (4) the program’s finances.
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