Colorado's New Universal Preschool Program

Beginning next school year (2023-24), the State of Colorado will support at least 10 hours of  preschool, or pre-k, for Colorado children in the year before they enter kindergarten.

To participate in Colorado’s new Universal Preschool Program (UPK), families will apply online and rank their preferences for participating preschool providers.

The Colorado Department of Early Childhood is working on developing a user-friendly online application for UPK that will determine a child’s eligibility for UPK, if the child is eligible for additional hours, and then match the child to an available UPK slot.

UPK funding is given directly to participating preschool providers. UPK providers must be licensed by the State of Colorado. Licensed preschool programs participating in UPK could include:

  • licensed family child care homes
  • licensed community centers
  • school district based preschool
  • charter school preschool programs
  • Head Start

The application for the 2023-24 school year will be available to families beginning in January. Children who turn 4 between October 2, 2022, and October 1, 2023, are eligible for UPK funds for the 2023-24 school year.

For children whose families complete the online application and who are matched with an available UPK slot, the program will provide 10 hours a week of free, high-quality, voluntary preschool in they year before the child enters kindergarten.

UPK is a result of Proposition EE, which Colorado voters approved in 2020.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

UPK will begin in 2023 for the 2023-2024 school year; the application for families will open in January 2023.

Children who turn 4 between October 2, 2022, and October 1, 2023, are eligible for UPK funds for the 2023-24 school year.

The Colorado Department of Early Childhood is working on developing a user-friendly online application for UPK that will determine a child’s eligibility for UPK, if the child is eligible for additional hours, and then match the child to an available UPK slot.

More information to come soon.

Sign up for email updates here to be notified when the application is live. You can also visit the Department of Early Childhood’s website for more information.

Colorado’s Universal Preschool will have a new universal online application system.

To participate in UPK, families will apply online and rank their preferences for participating preschool providers. The online system for UPK, which will be available to families in January, will determine a child’s eligibility for UPK, if the child is eligible for additional hours, and then match the child to an available UPK slot.

UPK funding is given directly to participating preschool providers.

The UPK application will be available in English and Spanish and is expected to be available to families beginning in January 2023. Children who turn 4 between October 2, 2022, and October 1, 2023, are eligible for UPK funds for the 2023-24 school year.

The UPK application will allow parents to share information and rank their preferences for preschool provider. Once families have registered in the system and completed the application, their child will be matched with available UPK slots at local participating preschool programs for the upcoming school year.

If the provider of your choice is licensed and participating in UPK, it’s possible that your child will be matched with that program, but not guaranteed.

To participate in UPK, families will apply online and rank their preferences for participating preschool providers. The system then matches the child with an available UPK slot at a participating preschool program.

UPK funding is given directly to participating preschool providers. UPK providers must be licensed by the State of Colorado. Licensed preschool programs participating in UPK could include:

  • licensed family child care homes
  • licensed community centers
  • school district based preschool
  • charter school preschool programs
  • Head Start

While many preschool programs will participate in UPK, the program is voluntary and not all programs will sign on to receive state UPK funding.

Families cannot use UPK funding to support the costs of an unlicensed provider, such as a family member, friend or neighbor.

Maybe. To take advantage of UPK, families must create an account, complete an online application, which will be available in January. Once the application is complete, the online system will match children to local programs that participate in UPK and that have available UPK-funded slots.

There is a chance that your child would be matched with the program that they are already in. But it would require that the program participates in UPK (programs are not required to do so) and that the program has available UPK slots. It would also require that your child is matched by the UPK system to the program they are already enrolled in.

The Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC) is developing the online application that will determine a child’s eligibility for UPK, if the child is eligible for additional hours, and then match the child to an available UPK slot.

More information will be coming from CDEC soon.

Children will continue to qualify for the state’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP), Head Start and other funding sources. These programs can be “stacked” on top of the 10 universal preschool hours to provide a child with additional hours per week.

Families can also choose to pay for more hours of preschool based on their needs.

On September 30, 2022, the Colorado Department of Early Education shared this announcement:

Under advisement of CDEC’s Rules Advisory Council (RAC), Dr. Lisa Roy has announced the rules that would allow a child to receive additional hours of care in the Colorado Universal Preschool Program. Three- and four-year-olds who meet one or more of the following criteria will be eligible for additional hours:

  • A child who lives in a low-income household (270% of the 2023 Federal Poverty Guidelines)
  • A child who is a dual language learner and the native language spoken in the child’s home is a language other than English, or the child’s native language is not English
  • A child who has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
  • A child who is currently in a foster care home or in non-certified kinship care
  • A child who is identified as homeless

Details on the number of hours will be determined in fall 2022. The above rules apply to eligible four-year-olds, three-year-olds, and children younger than three in a district with a waiver to serve children under three-years-old. For more details, please visit the Rules Advisory Council webpage.

Make sure you have a copy (a digital file or printout) of your child’s birth certificate. You will need your child’s birth certificate to register them for UPK.

Learn more about how to obtain a birth certificate in Colorado here.

The transition to UPK in our communities will build on the collaborative work of the Bright Futures Roadmap. The Bright Futures Roadmap was developed in 2019 by a diverse group of community stakeholders in Jefferson County. The Roadmap aims to ensure the healthy development of all children in Jeffco and beyond in Clear Creek and Gilpin.

The Roadmap is designed to build on existing community assets. It addresses needs across early learning, family support and education, and health and well-being.

Learn more about the Bright Futures Roadmap here. 

Yes. Universal preschool will replace the existing Colorado Preschool Program, which provides 10 hours a week of preschool for “at-risk” children and is administered by school districts. Some children will qualify for more than 10 state-funded hours based on risk factors.

Local Coordinating Organizations (LCOs) will be responsible for the coordination of UPK at the local level. Triad Bright Futures was named the Local Coordinating Organization (LCO) for Jefferson, Clear Creek and Gilpin Counties.

A strong public-private partnership of Jefferson County community leaders launched Jeffco’s Bright Futures Roadmap in 2019. The Roadmap is a vision of improved outcomes for Jefferson County families with children prenatal to age eight. In 2022, these partners re-committed to the Roadmap and developed the Triad Bright Futures project to serve as the early childhood local coordinating organization (LCO) for Jefferson, Clear Creek, and Gilpin counties.

The role of the LCO will be to support families to navigate preschool enrollment, as well as monitoring and reporting on seat availability in local preschools. LCOs also communicate with and support child care providers to help ensure the smooth transition to at least 10hours of free voluntary preschool for every child in the year before they are eligible to enter kindergarten.

In the future, the Department of Early Childhood will work with LCOs to broaden their focus to coordinate all of the systems that touch the lives of families with young children in their catchment area.

Learn more about LCOs here.

Your input matters!

As Jefferson, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties plan together for the future of UPK in our communities, we value input from providers, parents, and community members.

To share your questions, concerns or ideas, please complete the brief form below.  A member of Triad Bright Futures, the LCO for Jefferson, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties will contact you.

SHARE YOUR INPUT