You are here

A Brief History of Parents Encouraging Parents (PEP) Conferences


The first PEP conference convened in Colorado in 1978. Funded by a federal grant that included up to four conferences per school year, and a specified conference curriculum, eligible participants could attend a PEP conference and the CDE ESSU would pay for their lodging and food. 


For about 41 years parents with children with disabilities ages 0-21 and professionals who worked with children and youth with disabilities ages 0-21 and their families enjoyed a respite from home or work, enjoyed learning, lodging, meals, and networking with others with common concerns—all from a Thursday around 5:00 pm through a Saturday until 3:00 pm. PEP conferences were offered two or three times per school year. 


The PEP Team began tracking PEP conferences from 2004 through to the present. The tracking included school years and locations of PEP conferences and comments from parents and professionals who had participated in conferences. The PEP Team used this data to improve the material offered to participants, and how it was delivered. Learn more about the PEP conference school years and locations tracked from 2004 through to the present.


PEP’s United States Department of Education (USDOE)’s federal funding removed food and beverages for participants. PEP conferences would proceed without food and beverages. For the time being, the last conference where food and beverages had been provided was the spring PEP, April 26-28, 2018, in Crested Butte. 


Special Education facilitators, advocates, and past PEP participants introduced Senate Bill 19-215 that sought to provide food and beverages for participants at PEP conferences. SB 19-215 was signed into law on 3/25/2019. Food and beverages resumed for participants beginning with the fall 2019 PEP conference. To view SB 19-215, click here:


The State of Colorado fiscal rules changed the mileage reimbursement for all conference attendees. Those who lived less than 35 miles from the hotel venue (one-way) had to commute or pay for their own lodging, including CDE staff working at a conference. After 42 years not all PEP participants would have their lodging covered, beginning with the winter January 2020 conference. 


The spring PEP conference on April 2-4, 2020, in Grand Junction, was cancelled due to COVID-19. 


Due to COVID-19 the PEP Team worked through the summer and fall of 2020 to transition the in-person PEP conferences to a virtual format. 


The new virtual PEP conferences were called PEP Academy, and the first online conference through Zoom was presented in winter, January 2021. 


PEP conference evaluation data showed that there was still an unmet need among families involved in special education. The PEP Team delivered the first all-Spanish language “PEP Academy in Spanish,” through Zoom on April 22, 2022. 


The in-person PEP conferences resume with the winter January 26-28, 2023, PEP in Fort Collins. 


The State of Colorado fiscal rules again change the mileage requirements during summer 2023: Conference attendees now must follow a 50-mile rule. This rule goes into effect for the PEP conferences beginning January 2024. The CDE/ESSU will pay for lodging if a conference attendee’s commute is 50+ miles one way. 


Participant evaluations consistently mention that the 3-day conferences are overwhelming; the information is good, but so much to absorb. As a result, the PEP in-person conferences will change from a 3-day schedule (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) to a 2-day schedule (Friday and Saturday), beginning with the winter PEP, January 2024 in Aurora. 


The PEP Academy virtual PEP conferences offered online through Zoom are still being planned. 

Having trouble with this webpage?


If you have problems with broken links or accessing the content on this page, please contact the Exceptional Student Services Unit at Please copy the URL link for this page into the email when referencing the problem you are experiencing.