DENVER PRESCHOOL PROGRAM
The Denver Preschool Program, approved by Denver voters in November 2006, provides parents of four-year-old children with a tuition tax credit to use at the preschool program of their choice. The program was the result of efforts supported by The Piton Foundation, working with city officials and business and community leaders, to raise awareness about the importance of early childhood education and develop a proposal to increase the number of preschool slots in Denver.
Efforts began in January 2004, when Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper convened the Mayor's Leadership Team on Early Childhood Education, which was made up of over 30 business and community leaders, including Ron Williams, president of Gary-Williams Energy Corporation and vice-chairman of The Piton Foundation. In May of that year, the mayor also appointed 15 education and child-care leaders to the Mayor's Early Childhood Commission. The Piton Foundation funded the staff position for the Mayor's Leadership Team and also provided additional support through its own staff. The foundation also helped pay for polling to gauge public support for a tuition tax credit. In addition, Piton commissioned research by the Colorado Children's Campaign to identify current preschool slots and funding sources available, and the gap that would need to be filled in order to provide more slots for children in Denver.
In April 2005, these two groups presented to Mayor Hickenlooper a proposal for quality-focused preschool for Denver children, which would be funded through a 12-cent sales tax on a $100 purchase, generating about $12 million a year to help pay for preschool for Denver's four-year-olds and help preschool providers improve the quality of their programs.
The Piton Foundation spearheaded fundraising efforts from the foundation and corporate community for a public education campaign about early childhood education. The Preschool Denver campaign featured a widely run television advertisement in both English and Spanish.
In November 2006, Denver voters approved ballot issue 1A, Preschool Matters, to provide parents with a tuition credit to use at the preschool of their choice. The vast majority of the funding raised through the sales tax goes to families -- based on their income and the preschool's quality rating -- as tuition credits. Funds also go to preschool providers for quality improvements. The city has contracted with a newly-formed nonprofit organization, Denver Preschool Program, Inc., to oversee the operations of the program. The Piton Foundation provided the initial funding to the nonprofit to operate until the sales tax revenue was available for use. Sales tax revenue for the program began being collected in January 2007. Since January 2008, the program has received more than 1,100 applications. In total, between 2000 and 4000 children are expected to benefit from the tuition tax credit.
Denver Preschool Program
Mayor's Office of Education and Children