Special Report
School & District Management

Utah District Sees Pre-K as Tangible Investment

By Arianna Prothero — January 03, 2015 1 min read
One Rocky Mountain-area school district is betting that its preschool program will translate into long-term savings it can use to pay off investors backing the program's expansion.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The long-standing pre-K program in Granite School District, which covers parts of the Salt Lake City, Utah, metropolitan area, was so successful that school officials were able to convince investment firm Goldman Sachs and investor J.B. Pritzker in 2013 to front the money for expanding it through type of financing known as a social impact bond. Investment in early education saves money by keeping capable, but disadvantaged, children out of pricey special education services farther down the road, according to Brenda Van Gorder, the director of preschool services for the 70,000-student district. Those savings then can be used to pay off the loan.

Granite’s expanded program now serves about 3,000 3- to 5-year-olds, most of whom attend preschool for free or pay tuition on a sliding scale based on their families’ income. Nearly half the preschoolers are eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch, and nearly 40 percent are either ethnically diverse or speak a language other than English when they enter school, said Ms. Van Gorder.

At a Glance

Population Area Served: 300,000
Public Preschool Enrollment: 3,000
Preschool Funding Level: $8.3 million annually
Ages Served: 3- to 5-year-olds
Type of Program: voluntary, half-day

In addition to the $7 million social-impact bond, money comes from the federal government through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or Title I funds, as well as smaller grants and donations from community organizations.

Aside from its private investors, another unusual aspect of the program is that it trains many of its educators in-house: Most pre-K general-education teachers do not have four-year degrees.

“It’s almost like we have a grow-your-own, with the intent that our staff will all be working toward a child-development certificate,” said Ms. Van Gorder.

Despite its expansion, the program still has a waiting list and struggles to find space and transportation for the children it does serve. But Ms. Van Gorder said the investment seems to be paying off. Pupils who matriculated from the pre-K program remain on par with the achievement levels of their better-off peers as they move into higher grades.

“Our district was really struggling; we had lots of kids not reading on grade level in 3rd grade,” she said. “Everyone kept saying the grade before didn’t do their job. Well, the buck stops here.”

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Families & the Community Webinar
How Whole-Child Student Data Can Strengthen Family Connections
Learn how district leaders can use these actionable strategies to increase family engagement in their student’s education and boost their academic achievement.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
The School to Workforce Gap: How Are Schools Setting Students Up For Life & Lifestyle Success?
Hear from education and business leaders on how schools are preparing students for their leap into the workforce.
Content provided by Find Your Grind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management After a Rash of Student Suicides, This School District Stepped Up
Hopeless at first over a student mental health crisis, Colorado's Cherry Creek school leaders decided to build a day-treatment program.
13 min read
Image of a bridge made of puzzle pieces with the middle piece moving to connect the two sides.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty
School & District Management What Superintendents Say They Need More of to Help Them Manage Districts
98% of those surveyed said better data would make them more comfortable making decisions.
2 min read
Image of a data dashboard.
Suppachok Nuthep/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Principals Give Thanks—and Shoutouts—to School Support Staff
Custodians, lunchroom aides, secretaries, and bus drivers are “too often forgotten and underappreciated.”
7 min read
Image of a framed smiley face.
zakokor/iStock/Getty
School & District Management How to Recruit and Retain School Board Members of Color
Pay, staffing, and support are key ingredients to persuade people of color to run for their local school board, experts say.
5 min read
Illustration showing diversity with multi-colored human figures.
ajijchan/iStock/Getty