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Reflections on Universal Preschool

Cathrine Aasen Floyd, PhD (Cohort 1)

The early care and education field has always had its challenges–low pay and lack of recognition of the importance of our work often tests our passion and love for the children and families that serve. While K-12 has often been centered in conversations around teacher pay, , preschool has not often seemed to enter the public consciousness. To be honest, I didn’t think that Universal Preschool (UPK) could be passed by voters in Colorado, a state known for its aversion to taxes. But, I was pleasantly surprised to wake up that morning in November of 2021 and discover that it had. Imagine that! As those of us in the field dived into various listening sessions and workgroups, we began to see that this was going to be a complicated process–no more Colorado Preschool Program (CPP), a new Colorado Department of Early Childhood and new preschool program. Questions were bound to come up from folks both excited and anxious about what all these changes could bring.

Months later, Becky Keigan (4), Lisa Sadar (9) and I were on a call together and, as always happens, the interesting stuff happened after we had finished with the topic we had originally planned to discuss. I told them about the work I was doing at Trust for Learning to try to get the state to be the first to adopt the ideal learning principles as a framework for quality. We talked about the need for a definition that would encourage flourishing relationships between children and their caregivers and a life-long love of learning. Becky talked about all of the questions that she was hearing out in the field about the new UPK program, and the idea of a roundtable that included the Trust for Learning and Buellers was born.

When Lisa, Becky and I started talking about doing the roundtable we were hoping to get about 50 people registered. We knew people were excited and anxious about the new program, so it seemed that would be a good goal. We reached out to Lisa Roy, Executive Director of the Department of Early Childhood, and settled on a date and began advertising. The registrations started streaming in! 25, 50, 100, 151!  I guess we hit on the right topic at the right time.

Unfortunately, Dawn Oldean, the UPK director, was unable to attend but Lisa did a wonderful job of fielding questions from Buell Leaders. In attendance were Buellers, their colleagues, supporters and even members of the press (see below for coverage). We had representation from all over the state and most people stayed on for the entire presentation. I was really proud to be a part of it and look forward to implementation. Do I think it will all go perfectly? No, of course not. But, I do believe that if we all work together, we can create a program that will benefit Colorado kids and their families for a long time.

You can see the recording of the roundtable here.

See ABC news coverage here.