Colorado’s investment in children has, on average, decreased 3 percent every year in the past five years, according to an annual analysis by the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Five years of state spending, examined in the Colorado Children’s Budget 2013, indicates funding for child health, education and safety is not keeping up with the growing child population.
Bill Jaeger, vice president of early childhood initiatives at Colorado Children’s Campaign, said funding for the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) has seen significant cuts in this time period. The CCCAP is a state-supervised, county-administered program that provides subsidies to child care providers serving children in low-income families.
“Affordable child care is a major obstacle for families in Colorado,” he said. “We are one of the most expensive states for child care.”
The cost of child care in Colorado remains high compared with other states around the U.S. In 2011, Colorado ranked as the fourth-least affordable state for infant care in a center and the sixth-least affordable state for center-based care for a 4-year-old, relative to state median income. Jaeger said child care in Colorado can cost $8,000 to $14,000 per year, higher than most in-state tuition at public colleges.
“That cost comes at a time when parents haven’t had that time to save up; they are just beginning to see the start of their earning potential,” he said. “Unlike higher education, there is very little programming and funding in Colorado to help people afford child care.”
The CCCAP funding is not keeping up with the rising level of childhood poverty in the state, Jaeger said, as well as increased cost of care. During the past five years, there has been a 12 percent decrease in CCCAP funding — $11 million less, not adjusted for inflation.
“The failure to keep up is a real concern,” he said. “We believe the budget reflects the state’s priorities, and early learning is being left behind.”
Funding for CCCAP comes from a combination of federal funds and state and county dollars. About 70 percent of the funding for CCCAP comes from the federal government, with a portion of those funds requiring a state match. Adjusted for inflation, the Colorado Children’s Budget 2013 found CCCAP funding has decreased by 5.6 percent.
In Summit County, Lucinda Burns, executive director of Early Childhood Options, said the county reaches, or exceeds, its CCCAP allocation every year.
“Historically, we’ve always spent every penny, plus local funding, too,” she said. “We’ve struggled over the years to find enough funding to serve all families in need.”
The 2013 Kids Count in Colorado study released in March 2013, also conducted by Colorado Children’s Campaign, found that 13.8 percent of children in Summit County were in poverty in 2011. The county’s child well-being index ranking was 14 out of a possible 25 points. In the 2012 study, with numbers from 2010, 12.9 percent of Summit County children were reported to be living in poverty.
According to the Colorado Children’s Campaign reports, the overall five-year trend of decreased funding for children is concerning because childhood poverty is also increasing among Colorado’s youngest children. About one in five children younger than 6 is living in poverty, and children in poverty are at higher risk of starting school without the basic skills needed to succeed.
“Children are our greatest asset, and that’s why Colorado invests significant resources in their healthy development and education,” said Chris Watney, president and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign, in a prepared statement. “As the economy continues to recover, we must recognize that state investments in children during the past five years aren’t keeping up with inflation and child population growth. This isn’t a sustainable trend if we want to give every child in Colorado the opportunity for a bright future, and it doesn’t reflect the values of a state that is dedicated to ensuring that all kids succeed.”
This legislative session, Colorado Children’s Campaign hopes to address more efficiency within child care programs, as well as getting more people access to the support.
“Children are our greatest asset, and that’s why Colorado invests significant resources in their healthy development and education. As the economy continues to recover, we must recognize that state investments in children during the past five years aren’t keeping up with inflation and child population growth.”
President and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign