Beginning the 2023-24 school year, the State of Colorado will support at least 15 hours of preschool, or pre-k, for Colorado children in the year before they enter kindergarten.
Colorado’s Universal Preschool Program (UPK) provides a minimum of half-day preschool, or 15 hours per week, for the 2023-24 school year to children who turn 4 between October 2, 2022, and October 1, 2023.
Four-year -olds with at least one qualifying factor (see below) will be eligible for 15 additional hours of preschool per week. Children who turn 3 between October 2, 2022, and October 1, 2023, are also eligible for UPK if they have at least one qualifying factor.
Participating in UPK is voluntary, both for families and preschool providers.
UPK is available during the school year (nine months). The funding for each child’s preschool tuition goes directly to the participating preschool provider. UPK providers must be licensed by the State of Colorado. Participating UPK preschool providers could include:
- Licensed Family Child Care Homes
- Licensed Community Based Centers
- Licensed School District Based Programs
- Licensed Charter School Programs
- Licensed Head Start Programs
Licensed faith-based preschools can participate but UPK funds can not be applied during hours of religious programming.
Preschool providers participating in UPK may serve the number of preschool students allowed for by their current child care license.
The application for the 2023-24 school year is available to families as of January 17.
Frequently Asked Questions About UPK
Only currently licensed providers are eligible to participate in UPK. If you do not currently have a license through the state, you can begin that process today.
If you are licensed and provide services to preschoolers, to begin the registration process you will go to provider.upk.colorado.gov.
Licensed providers will be able to claim their accounts. To claim this account you will need the email associated with your license. This is the same email you use to login to Provider Hub. Once you create and account, you will go through a brief registration process.
Once your registration has been sent, your LCO (Triad Bright Futures for Jefferson, Gilpin and Clear Creek counties) will send you a participation agreement to sign through the system.
After entering your digital signature, you will then be able to manage your provider profile. This profile is how you will be displayed to families as they are searching and applying for the UPK Colorado Program for the 2023-2024 school year.
Applications for UPK Colorado went live for families on January 17th, 2023.
Click here for the UPK Provider Guide, a resource to help providers understand and navigate Colorado’s new UPK system.
Yes. 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 universal preschool hours to provide a child with additional hours per week.
Providers participating in UPK are encouraged to blend and braid UPK tuition credits with other available funding sources including Head Start and CCCAP for eligible families.
In the Triad Bright Futures catchment area (Jefferson, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties), the UPK tuition credit rates and schedule are as follows:
- Part Time Slot – 10 hours of weekly preschool programming – Available to 3-year-olds with one qualifying factor: $4,713.94 total for the 9 month school year
- Half Day Slot – 15-20 hours of weekly preschool programming – Available to children the year before kindergarten* (no qualifying factors): $5,890.53 total for 9 month school year
- Full Day Slot – 30-40 hours of weekly preschool programming – Available to children the year before kindergarten with at least one qualifying factor: $10,513.26 total for 9 month school year
Tuition credits are paid directly from CO Dept of Early Childhood to the licensed provider.
Families who enroll for more than the number of hours covered by the tuition credit amount will pay only the difference between the total tuition cost and the UPK tuition credit.
*The year before kindergarten for the 2023-24 school year includes children who turn 4 between October 2, 2022, and October 1, 2023. If the four-year-old with no qualifying factors enrolls in 10-14 hours per week, the part time tuition credit rate will be paid.
UPK will support high-quality services for children. UPK quality standards will be defined by the Rules Advisory Council (RAC) in the first half of 2023. More information from the RAC is here.
Quality standards must at a minimum reflect national and community-informed best practices with regard to school readiness, academic and cognitive development, healthy environments, social-emotional learning, and child and family outcomes.
There will not be a single required curriculum, but rather a resource library of curricula, which will be approved by the Department of Early Childhood. Providers will be able to submit curriculum products that they have used, or would like to use, for approval and inclusion in the resource library.
Licensed faith-based preschools can participate in UPK, with the condition that an approved curricula will be utilized and state funds may not be applied during hours of religious programming.
TIPS FOR PRESCHOOL PROVIDERS
To help ensure your current families are matched to your program for the 2023-24 school year, please:
- Reference the UPK Provider Guide for help navigating the UPK system
- Complete your program profile, review and confirm your provider agreement ASAP: https://provider.upk.colorado.gov
- Request your LCO to publish your profile in the provider portal so it is visible to families
- Encourage your families with eligible children to complete their applications before February 14 and select your program as their first choice
- Accept the match when you receive notification of the preliminary match of a current family
More Questions & Answers about UPK
Children who turn 3 between October 2, 2022, and October 1, 2023, are eligible for UPK if they meet at least one qualifying factor (see above).
All eligible 3- year-olds must be served through school district preschool programs or with community preschool providers who contract with school districts.
More information about serving 3-year-olds in UPK is here.
During set periods of time, families will be matched to a preschool provider by the online UPK application. Children are matched to available UPK slots using criteria created by the Colorado Department of Early Childhood. The criteria take into consideration the family’s choice, eligibility, and “weighted” priorities (e.g., if a family is already enrolled at the program or a sibling is).
Providers will be notified of the preliminary match and must confirm it before the notification is sent to families. Learn more about the matching process here.
The match criteria give added priority — or weight — to family choice that would support continuity of care (meaning the chance for a child to participate continuously in a program and enjoy stable relationships with caregivers). Siblings in the same program is another example of a weighted priority.
Some preschool providers will require specific information from families based on their own program requirements. This might include requirements for parent volunteer hours, or other requirements based on if the program is language-, employer-, or faith-based or if the student has an IEP.
Applications will be accepted between January 17 and February 14, and then the applications will be matched to available UPK provider capacity. The first match will be February 15 with additional matching dates to follow throughout the year.
Providers will have a short period to review and confirm additional eligibility information before notification of the match is sent to families to either accept or decline.
If a family declines, their application will go through the match again.
Additional match rounds will occur for applications received every two weeks through March. Then the application will move to a rolling matching process as application volume declines.
Families will be sent match notification around the beginning of March and April and then every two weeks as the matching process proceeds.
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.
Triad Bright Futures, as the LCO, will coordinate universal preschool rollout for fall 2023 by supporting providers, growing capacity, and increasing access to a variety of high-quality early care and education options through a mixed-delivery system. Triad Bright Futures will also work to implement the four cornerstones defined in the Bright Futures Roadmap through engagement with all community partners and stakeholders. Triad Bright Futures will serve as a coordination partner and will not duplicate existing services or disrupt existing community programs including those provided by Triad Early Childhood Council.
Jennifer Anton was named Executive Director of the Triad Bright Futures LCO. Learn more about Jennifer here.
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 15 hours 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.
Yes. As of July 1, 2023 the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) will unify with the UPK Program. CPP as it is currently known will no longer exist.*
*There is a one year “hold harmless” funding provision for school districts, charter schools, and community-based providers that served CPP children: CDEC will pay the difference if the provider receives total preschool funding in the 2023-24 school year that is less than funding received in the 2022-23 school year.
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.