Report card: Colorado’s spending on preschool pales in comparison to national leaders

Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Ann Schimke on May 12, 2016

Colorado has sunk closer to the bottom of the pack for state preschool funding, according to an annual report card released Thursday.

The state, which spends a paltry amount on preschool per pupil compared to top-scorers like Washington, DC, dropped from 35 to 41 in 2015. Only South Carolina and Mississippi spent less per child than Colorado. Eight other states with no publicly funded preschool programs weren’t ranked.

On a measure of 4-year-old preschool access, Colorado’s ranking stayed exactly the same: No. 22. That’s even with a small increase in 2015 in the number of 4-year-olds participating in the Colorado Preschool Program.

The state-by-state comparisons, put out by the National Institute for Early Education Research, also revealed that Colorado meets six of 10 benchmarks designed to judge preschool quality. That number—the same as neighboring Kansas and lower than Nebraska and New Mexico —is unchanged from the previous year.

Among the quality benchmarks that Colorado failed to meet are two on preschool teacher credentials— one specifying that teachers have a bachelor’s degree and the other that assistant teachers have a child development associate degree. In Colorado, early childhood teachers are required to have the associate degree and there is no minimum credential for assistant teachers.

Despite its middle-of-the-road benchmark score on the report card, Colorado has intensified its focus on improving preschool quality in the last couple years—particularly with its new mandatory rating system for licensed child care providers. The five-level rating system, called Colorado Shines, replaced an older voluntary system that was used by only a fraction of the state’s providers.

You can see Colorado’s 2015 report card results here and the 2014 results here.

Read the full “State of Preschool 2015” report from the National Institute for Early Education Research here.

For previous Chalkbeat coverage on Colorado Shines, see this story.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.