News Bites- Spring, 2021

Denver Preschool Program celebrates major milestone as members of its first preschool cohort graduate high school

It’s graduation season and we’re thrilled to honor a special group of students receiving their high school diplomas this year — the first cohort of Denver Preschool Program (DPP)! Among the class of 2021 are members of DPP’s preschool class of 2008, including Jaylah Short, who has allowed us to chronicle her transition from a 4-year-old to a future college freshman as a testament of what quality early education can help accomplish.

“We’ve said it for 14 years and now we have our own proof: preschool matters. Each graduate is an outcome of Denver’s enduring commitment to giving its youngest learners a strong start in life,” said Elsa Holguín, president & CEO of DPP. “They’re also an outcome of the conscious efforts of their families and teachers who supported them along their educational paths. We are proud to honor this important time in their lives, and are filled with hope for their futures. Congratulations!” 

New pilot program, Preschool for 3s, extends $5 million in tuition credits to families of 3-year-olds

For the first time in its history, DPP is equitably increasing access to quality preschool for a limited number of 3-year-olds this fall through a two-year pilot program, Preschool for 3s! Specifically, the goals of this program are to:

  • Increase awareness and acceptance of financial resources available to Denver families interested in early childhood education but for whom cost may be an enrollment barrier
  • Create more opportunities for preschool-aged children to prepare for kindergarten 
  • Support a greater number of families with 3-year-olds experiencing challenges accessing or maintaining child care due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Expand DPP’s resources in support of early childhood education providers and advancing the early childhood workforce
  • Support programmatic shifts and expansions in preparation for Colorado’s adoption of Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) in 2023

Denver families with a 3-year-old registered at a community-based preschool or family child care home this fall are encouraged to see if they are eligible and apply to receive tuition credits through Preschool for 3s.

Please help us to inform eligible families by sharing this bilingual flyer, or by using the contents of this bilingual toolkit. For more information, please contact the DPP enrollment team at 303-595-4377 or

2020-2021 DPP Scholarships are still available

Denver Preschool Program is continuing to award DPP Scholarships for the 2020-2021 school year so that more 4-year-olds can have access to a safe, fun and educational experience this summer. A family of four that is making less than $79,500 and not receiving other public funding is eligible to apply for the Scholarship to receive 100% of their preschool tuition costs covered at any participating program through August 31, 2021.

“The pandemic disrupted early education for a lot of families last year, but it’s not too late for children to get a solid education experience before kindergarten. This Scholarship helps to ensure that they can show up ready,” said Michael Baker, DPP board chair. “Furthermore, many families in our community have expressed that what they really need right now is reliable child care to ease their return to work outside of the home. Free preschool means job security for them, as well as for community-based DPP providers who often see their tuition revenue decrease during the summer months.”

Families can visit for more information and to apply. 

2021-2022 Tuition Credit Scale remains steady

DPP is carrying its 2020-2021 tuition credit scale into the 2021-2022 school year despite the economic impact of the pandemic, to ensure Denver families can consistently reap the benefits of quality early education during these uncertain times. Last year, we increased the amount of tuition support that was available to families at the time by 10.2% for the 2020-2021 school year and are proud to be able to maintain that level of support for preschoolers this fall. 

“As Colorado makes its economic comeback from the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for consistent early childhood education opportunities in safe environments that also promote lifelong learning skills is more pressing than ever. At the same time, finances are tight, inequalities in recovery are glaring, and work-life balance remains extremely challenging for many families,” said Dr. Lydia Prado, Executive Director of Lifespan Local and DPP board member.

The tuition credit scale affords a typical Denver family at least $788 per month in tuition credits, with some families qualifying to receive 100% of their tuition costs covered. It’s just one of the ways the DPP is working to create stability in early childhood education for families, children and providers. 

Evaluating our response to COVID-19 

The Butler Institute for Families at the University of Denver recently took stock of DPP’s efforts to support access to quality early childhood education during COVID-19 to ensure our strategy meets Denver’s ever changing needs. It was no surprise to find that families felt the negative impacts of the pandemic: more than 70% of families experienced and employment-related hardship, such as losing a job or taking a pay cut, and BIPOC families were disproportionally affected. With the high costs of early childhood education and the economic strain that many families were facing, our data showed that DPP tuition credits made a significant difference in middle- and lower-income families’ ability to access a high-quality preschool.

COVID-19 also presented several challenges to providers. This year, up to 74% of our providers experienced low enrollment at their schools. Low enrollment for many community-based providers means that there isn’t enough revenue to cover the costs of running their programs, thus putting them in a position where closing their doors is a real possibility. Recognizing the situation that providers were facing, DPP’s board of directors authorized several additional funding sources and grants to help providers persist through the pandemic. DPP’s Emergency Funding, Attendance Waivers and Strengthening Grants pushed more than $1.5 million dollars out to the community to help providers stay open to serve Denver’s preschoolers. As of September 2020 just 5% of DPP providers closed, while those who did not receive public funds were 1.6 times more likely to close.

Colorado Youth for Change to honor Elsa Holguín in September

Colorado Youth for Change (CYC), a nonprofit organization with a mission to solve Colorado’s school dropout crisis, will honor DPP president & CEO Elsa Holguín at its 2021 Back to School Night. Each year, CYC recognizes a community leader for their outstanding contributions to education in Colorado. The annual fundraiser will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 22, in partnership with Comedy Works. Tickets will go on sale this summer. 

Remembering Dr. Rebecca Kantor 

Denver Preschool Program board and staff continue to mourn the loss of Dr. Rebecca Kantor. Dr. Kantor served as dean of the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Education & Human Development since 2012, and was an invaluable member of DPP’s board of directors from 2015 until her passing in April 2021. Her distinguished career as an early education teacher, researcher and policy reformer has left an impact that will continue to influence the lives of children around the world for many years to come. We’re eternally grateful for her countless contributions to our community.

Learn more about the legacy of our late friend, Dr. Kantor. 

DPP in the News

Denver Preschool Program is expanding free preschool to 3-year-olds

Doors Open For Younger Students In Denver Preschool Program