Early-learning grant’s economic effect cited

LAFAYETTE – A new $29.9 million federal grant to help get Colorado children ready for kindergarten has a big impact on Boulder County employers, according to a nonprofit children’s advocacy group.

While no dollar amount has been set yet, the Early Childhood Council of Boulder County is expected to receive a proportional amount of the federal grant, said Bobbie Watson, executive director of the nonprofit group. The money will be used to make sure quality early childhood services are available to families and children in Boulder County, Watson said.

The local child-care sector brings an estimated $350 million annually to the local economy, according to a 2006 study done by the Early Childhood Council of Boulder County. About 350 licensed childcare centers and homes are located throughout the county, Watson said.

The more high-quality child care and education venues exist for children, Watson said, the less absenteeism and stress there will be from working parents. Local child-care costs for a toddler can run about $1,200 per month; or about $23,000 per year – more than the cost of sending a child to the University of Colorado, Watson said.

Federal funds will be doled out to 31 nonprofit childhood councils in Colorado for the next four years, Watson said. The councils receive money from state and federal funds, as well as grants from private foundations, operating with a mandate from the Colorado Legislature. The Early Childhood Council of Boulder County has a budget of about $500,000 per year, Watson said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced that Colorado had received the $29.9 million grant on Thursday, Dec. 6. It is from the third round of federal funding for a program called the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant.

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