Larimer County Early Childhood Education Ballot Initiative Postponed
Earlier this year, Early Childhood Council of Larimer County, in partnership with United Way of Larimer County, convened a Steering Committee of community members—including public and private sector leaders, educators, parents, business people, and early childhood development experts—to shape and inform a strategic viability assessment project to determine whether and when to pursue a ballot measure to raise dedicated, local public funding for early childhood programs in Larimer County. The Steering Committee developed a concept that would take a
holistic, equitable, systemic approach to early care and education for Larimer families. The proposal was built upon successful models in other communities in Colorado and across the US and leveraged existing expertise within the community to maximize efficiency with taxpayer funding. The concept was tested with voters and received sufficient support for the Steering Committee to ask the Larimer County Commissioners to place it on the ballot.
“In conversations with Larimer County leadership over the past month, it has become apparent that material changes would be made to the community-designed program in order for it to move forward this year,” said Christina Taylor, CEO of Early Childhood Council of Larimer County. “Unfortunately, there is not enough time to vet these changes with experts in the field nor test them with voters to see if there is public support for the concept.”
In the time available, the Steering Committee was unable to come to agreement with County leaders regarding a mutually acceptable public/private partnership that reflected the intent of the community-driven process that was focused around redesigning the system to increase access and equity while maximizing the use of taxpayer dollars.
The early care and education crisis in Larimer County remains an urgent priority and Early Childhood Council of Larimer County remains committed to finding sustainable, equitable long-term solutions.
Based on 2019 estimates, licensed capacity for child care is only 25% of projected demand for infants and toddlers, and only 64% for preschool age children. It is estimated that Larimer County needs at least another 3,572 spaces for children from birth to 24 months and another 4,069 spaces for those ages 2 to 5 to close the gap between the number of children with all parents working and the number of licensed slots. While the early care and education crisis in Larimer County has been exacerbated by the pandemic, the issues fueling the crisis including inadequate pay, sluggish workforce development, rising cost of care, and demand that has outpaced supply were prevalent well before COVID-19 arrived.
“For now, we will fight to ensure the ARPA dollars and other relief funding that have come into the County are invested in the best ways to help all Larimer County families, particularly our frontline workers and families living at the margins of our community that have been hardest hit by the pandemic,” Taylor said.
Early Childhood Council of Larimer County, alongside committed early childhood partners and advocates, will return to the drawing board on longer-term supports for Larimer families regarding care and education for their youngest family members.
“We truly believe this is the solution to the early childhood education (ECE) access crisis in our community and will continue fighting for systemic changes that benefit our community as a whole,” Taylor said. “We will also be working with Early Milestones via the Early Childhood Workforce Initiative to develop a final report detailing our process and lessons learned and will share that out as appropriate to support other communities with similar priorities.”
More information on the Steering Committee’s recommendation and final report can be found here.
About Early Childhood Council of Larimer County
Early Childhood Council of Larimer County is an independent nonprofit organization that rallies support, resources, and awareness to ensure every young child in our community has quality childhood experiences so they thrive from day one. Learn more at www.ecclc.org.