Helping Coloradans pay for quality child care

Child care is a critical component of a high-quality education early in life. Interactions with other children and exposure to letters and books help prepare kids for kindergarten.

The type of environment to which children are exposed during their first five years has a significant impact on their chances of success later in life. When kids attend quality child care programs, they are more likely to start school ready to learn, graduate from high school and stay in the work force.

Unfortunately, exorbitant costs prohibit many families from accessing quality care for their kids. This can carry lifelong consequences not only to those children, but to their families and our state as a whole.

It’s also no secret that more and more families are moving into our state. If we hope to keep up with the growth we are experiencing, we need a strong workforce that can afford to work while their children are well cared for. Child care is a work-related expense and plays a critical role in that effort.

That’s why we’re glad that last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill that will help more low- and middle-income families afford high-quality child care.

The bipartisan House Bill 1208, the Child Care Expenses Income Tax Credit Expansion, which we were proud to sponsor, provides a refundable tax credit to families making $60,000 or less annually with child care expenses.

This is important because it’s not only families who live below the poverty line who struggle with affording quality care for their children while they are at work. With child care costs in Colorado currently up to more than $11,000 annually for a 4-year-old — or $936 each month — according to Child Care Aware, quality care is unaffordable to many families across the state.

Additionally, the legislation brings in more than $3.5 million annually to support early childhood care. It is expected to benefit more than 24,000 Colorado families.

We are thankful that Hickenlooper and our colleagues in the state legislature agree with us that child care is a worthy investment. Early education, including child care, not only helps level the playing field for kids, it helps our economy. In fact, a report from Nobel Prize-winning University of Chicago economist James Heckman shows the rate of return on investments in early childhood development for many children can be 13 percent per child, per year due to improved outcomes in education, health, sociability, economic productivity and reduced crime. That means this bill will help save taxpayers’ money in the long run.

Children may only be 20 percent of our population, but they are 100 percent of our future. Investments in our kids are the best ones we, as a state, can make.

Speaker Crisanta Duran represents House District 5 in Denver. Rep. Faith Winter represents House District 35 in Adams County and Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik represents Senate District 24 in Adams County.