Thousands of families of young children in Denver make ends meet with the Denver Preschool Program. Enrollment is under way now for prekindergarten programs this fall for 4-year-olds. The program is also expanding access to preschool for a limited number of children turning three by Oct. 1.
At the Hope Center in Denver's Clayton neighborhood, children are developing skills that will help them thrive in elementary school and in life. Tuition credits which cover the costs of attending are funded by Denver taxpayers.
Four-year-old Kaia loves going to preschool, says her mom Kalelia Vegas.
"When I take her around other kids she's a little bit more advanced in her reading and her letter recognition and things that she's learned with being in the preschool program."
The Denver Preschool Program helps families identify good programs by providing quality ratings. The credits are provided to families on a sliding scale based on income and the rating of the school.
Denver Preschool Program CEO Elsa Holguín said, "We work really hard to make sure our preschools – 266 right now – that we help them not only get to the quality level but stay at a quality level."
Vegas appreciates that the tuition credits and scholarships cover the full costs of an extended day of school.
Freeing up money for swim lessons and other expenses, saying, "When I'm at work I know that she's OK and that these centers that are getting the tuition and assistance from the Denver Preschool Program are definitely at a quality rating so it gives me comfort as a mom."
"Tuition in Denver for four-year-olds is about $14,000 a year. That's a lot of money for a working family. We're not just helping a little bit, we're making sure that they can afford it," Holguín said.
Kalelia Vegas says Kaia is more than ready for kindergarten, "I have seen such growth in her. She has such creativity all the way around. She's just a lovely outgoing kid."
The Denver Preschool Program is entering its 17th year - with its first graduates now in college. The sales tax that funds the program will be up for renewal by voters in 2026.
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