Colorado UPK in Denver: FAQs

Below are frequently asked questions about how Universal Preschool (UPK) Colorado operates in Denver. If you have a question that’s not addressed here, please visit https://cdec.colorado.gov/colorado-universal-preschool or email us at denverupk@dpp.org. UPK Colorado is a new initiative developed in collaboration with local communities and the Colorado Department of Early Childhood. Answers to all questions may not be available at this time but will be identified and addressed as the program evolves.

Universal Preschool (UPK) Colorado is an exciting and new initiative led by the new Colorado Department of Early Childhood 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 beginning in the 2023-24 school year. Three-year-olds with qualifying factors are eligible for part-time (10 hours) of preschool programming. 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 will work in complement to DPP’s tuition credit model with funds being blended and braided, meaning combined to maximize benefits for families.

Providers may begin registering their programs to participate in UPK Colorado now here. Registration for families begins January 17, 2023, and the online application is available here. The benefit will be applied to the 2023-24 school year.

Available funding for UPK Colorado aims to cover up to 15 hours a week of preschool programming per week, with some children being eligible for more support based on need and other funding available (see questions below for more about additional funding). Since many families may need more than 15 hours of preschool each week, our funding through DPP, which is paid for by a portion of city sales tax, will not only continue to provide needed tuition credits for families with four-year-olds, but now our program has expanded to offer tuition support for three-year-olds at the highest level of financial need.

As UPK Colorado currently stands, it aims to fund up to 15 hours of preschool per week for 4-year-olds* (see next question for more details). Many families–and children–need more than that. The good news is that with DPP as a complement to Colorado’s state UPK, many Denver families will be able to receive additional support and have their preschool needs met fully. It’s really a win-win as there will be more resources for Denver families and young children.

Three- and four-year-olds who meet one or more of the following criteria will be eligible for additional hours:

  • A child who lives in a low-income household (270% of the 2023 Federal Poverty Guidelines)
  • A child who is 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
  • A child who has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
  • A child who is currently in a foster care home or in non-certified kinship care
  • A child who is identified as homeless

The above rules apply to eligible four-year-olds, three-year-olds, and children younger than three in a district with a waiver to serve children under three-years-old. For more details, please visit the Rules Advisory Council webpage.

Family applications open on January 17, 2023 at upk.colorado.gov. When completing the application, families will need to select their preferred preschool provider. The state will then match families with a preschool provider. DPP recommends that Denver families first apply for UPK Colorado, then select their provider (once matched by the state), and as a final step apply to DPP for additional tuition assistance.

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.

All Colorado children who are 4-years-old on or before October 1, 2023 will be eligible for up to 15 hours of UPK programming per week in the upcoming 2023-2024 school year. There is no income requirement for the universal preschool program; 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 here, and are further detailed from the Rules Advisory Council of CDEC.

UPK funding will cover the school year only (September-May). The published UPK rates is the total amount to be paid per slot for the school year and will be distributed in quarterly payments through the year (August, November, February, and May). Additional information on how funding will be distributed is in the state’s FAQ.

Funding is slot-based and will not be impacted by an individual student’s attendance. Additional information for attendance and reimbursement is in the provider service agreement.

UPK Colorado will complement 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 will be in addition to UPK funding. DPP will also be 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 launch 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 twice passed the Denver Preschool Tax to help make early childhood education possible for kids and their families.

Universal Preschool (UPK) Colorado will fund up to 15 hours of preschool each week (see above for more about additional hours of funding based on certain criteria). This is being 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 implementation starting in the fall of 2023. This is not considered part of public charge; so all families regardless of immigration status can receive access to both Universal Preschool funds as well as Denver Preschool Program tuition credits.

Denver Preschool Program has 16 years 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 the statewide Universal Preschool 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 here.