Colorado UPK in Denver: FAQs

Below are frequently asked questions about how Universal Preschool (UPK) Colorado operates in Denver. For additional information: 

Because UPK Colorado is in its inaugural year (2023-2024 school year), processes are evolving and improving. We’ll continue to update information as updates are available.

UPK Colorado is an exciting initiative led by the new Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC) that helps to ensure every child in the year before they are eligible for kindergarten is eligible for half-day (15-hours) of state-funded, voluntary preschool. UPK Colorado officially began providing funding for children for  the 2023-24 school year. Three-year-olds with qualifying factors are eligible for part-time (10 hours) of preschool programming as long as funding is available. Families of children in the year before they are eligible for kindergarten with certain qualifying factors may be eligible for up to an additional 15 hours on top of the half-day programming.

UPK Colorado is funded through Colorado House Bill 22-1295 that was a result of Proposition EE, a voter-approved nicotine tax measure that passed in November 2020. For Denver families, UPK Colorado complements Denver Preschool Program’s (DPP) tuition credit model with funds being blended and braided, meaning combined to maximize benefits for families.

UPK Colorado is a newer initiative available to families statewide that began in the 2023-24 school year. DPP, on the other hand, has been helping ensure every child in Denver enters Kindergarten ready to reach their full potential for the past 17 years. DPP is the non-profit administrator of the City’s dedicated .15 percent sales tax. DPP champions, funds, and expands access to high-quality preschool for ALL Denver families, regardless of income or neighborhood.

DPP tuition credits continue to be available to Denver families and can be layered into UPK Colorado funding to increase a family’s tuition savings.  Families in Denver may benefit from added DPP tuition credits if:

  • Their child will be attending preschool more than 15 hours/week 
  • Their child will be in preschool year-round, including summer months, as UPK Colorado does not cover preschool expenses over the summer.

UPK Colorado is funded through Proposition EE, a voter-approved nicotine tax measure that passed in November 2020 for implementation starting in the fall of 2023.

Funding through DPP is paid for by the .15 percent city sales tax, which was approved  by Denver voters in 2006 and reauthorized in 2014 and again in 2023. DPP is a complement to UPK Colorado as many Denver families will be able to receive additional hours and have their preschool needs met fully.

UPK Colorado funding and support began for the 2023-2024 school year.

The legislation as passed under HB 22-1295 states the program is to provide preschool services for children in the (1) year preceding eligibility for kindergarten.

For the 2023-2024 school year, all Colorado children who are 4-years-old on or before October 1, 2023 are eligible for up to 15 hours of UPK programming per week for the 2023-2024 school year (August-May). There is no income requirement for UPK Colorado; however, families meeting qualifying factors (including income) may be eligible for more funding. Funding is available regardless of immigration status.

Children with one or more qualifying factors, like an IEP or those in foster/kinship care, may be eligible for up to 30 hours of preschool programming per week. Children who are 3 with a qualifying factor may also be eligible for part-time (10 hours) of preschool programming.

The qualifying factors can be found on the state’s website, and are further detailed from the Rules Advisory Council of CDEC.

UPK Colorado complements DPP’s already proven tuition credit model. This means that many Denver families may receive full tuition support for their 4-year-old for preschool as DPP funds are in addition to UPK funding. DPP is now able to expand our tuition credits to 3-year-olds at the highest levels of needs, increasing our commitment to our vision that every child enters kindergarten ready to reach their full potential. With two years of preschool funding leading into Colorado’s full-day kindergarten, which launched in the fall 2019, many of Denver’s youngest children will now receive three years of early childhood education funding.

Supporting Colorado’s state UPK is consistent with the DPP mission and the intention of voters who three times passed the Denver Preschool Tax to help make early childhood education possible for kids and their families.

UPK Colorado is not considered part of public charge, so all families regardless of immigration status can receive access to both UPK Colorado funds as well as DPP tuition credits.

DPP has almost two decades of experience in providing preschool funding to the community. We are committed to adapting and evolving to meet the changing needs of families to ensure our young children are prepared for kindergarten. DPP applied to become Denver’s UPK LCO to help build on our longstanding success and streamline UPK processes for Denver families and preschool providers as much as possible.

As an organization, we will always continue to advocate for additional funding for early childhood education in our community, support policies, and invest in educators and their livelihood. We will also welcome the opportunity to share our leadership and learnings and continue to play an important role in helping support Denver families as they look for ways to complement UPK Colorado’s offerings.

DPP is uncompromising in our commitment to our value of leadership in action, which entails “championing early childhood education, ensuring the community realizes the benefits of its investments in young children.” Just as we’ve done with early childhood education expertise and leadership from the start, we will strive to ensure our learnings and insights impact the entire state. We will continue to advocate for additional funding for early childhood education in our community, support policies and funding that impact the workforce of educators and their livelihood, and welcome the opportunity to share our leadership and learnings.

To learn more about DPP’s impact and the importance of preschool, read about the benefits of our work here.

If you have additional questions about Colorado’s State UPK program, please see their FAQs.