Beginning next school year (2023-2024), the State of Colorado will resource up to 10 hours a week of free, high-quality, voluntary preschool in the year before kindergarten. Universal Preschool (UPK) is funded through Proposition EE tax revenue, which Colorado voters approved in 2020.
The Colorado Department of Early Childhood is developing a user-friendly 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.
UPK funding is paid directly to participating licensed preschool providers. These can include:
- licensed family child care homes
- licensed community centers
- school district-based preschool
- charter school preschool
- Head Start
To participate in Universal Preschool (UPK), families will apply online and rank their preferences for participating preschool providers. The application for the 2023-2024 school year will be available beginning in January. Children who turn 4 between October 2, 2022, and October 1, 2023, are eligible for UPK.
Frequently Asked Questions
When does Colorado Universal Preschool begin?
The first year for Colorado Universal Preschool will be the 2023-2024 school year.
How will families apply for UPK?
UPK will have a universal online application system. Available in English and Spanish, the application will allow parents to share information and rank their preschool provider preferences. Children will then be matched with available UPK slots at local participating preschool programs for the 2023-2024 school year.
May I use UPK funding for the specific provider that I want for my child?
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. While many preschool programs will participate in UPK, it is voluntary and not all will sign on to receive UPK referrals. Families cannot use UPK funding for unlicensed providers, such as family members, friends, or neighbors.
If my child is already in preschool, may I use UPK funds to help pay for it?
Maybe. After you complete your child’s application, the UPK system will provide suitable providers. There is a chance that your child would be matched with the program that they are already in. But this would require that the program participates in UPK (programs are not required to do so) and that it has available UPK slots. While it is possible, there is no guarantee that the match will be made.
What if families need more than 10 hours of preschool per week?
Children will continue to qualify for the Colorado 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.
Will UPK replace the Colorado Preschool Program?
Yes. UPK 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. Under UPK, some children will qualify for more than 10 state-funded hours based on risk factors.
Which children will be eligible for more than 10 hours of UPK per week?
Three- and 4-year-olds who meet one or more of the following criteria will be eligible for additional hours:
- lives in a low-income household (270% of the federal poverty level)
- 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
- has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
- is currently in a foster care home or in non-certified kinship care
- is identified as experiencing homeless
Details on the number of hours will be determined in fall 2022. The above rules apply to eligible 4-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and children younger than 3 in a district with a waiver to serve children under 3-years-old. For more details, visit the Rules Advisory Council webpage.
As a parent, what can I do to prepare for UPK?
Make sure that you have a copy (a digital file or print-out) of your child’s birth certificate, which will be needed during the application process. Learn more about how to obtain a birth certificate in Colorado.
Where do I get more information?
Who is the local contact for UPK in Weld County?
United Way of Weld County is the Local Coordinating Organization for UPK in all of Weld County but the area covered by the St. Vrain Valley School District. Questions about UPK can be addressed to Sheri Hannah-Ruh, director of Early Childhood Initiatives, or by calling 970-304-6173.