Grant provides big boost for early education programs

October 8, 2012
Author: Nadine Wimmer | KSL

SALT LAKE CITY - A new grant will help Utah daycares move from babysitting to educating.

By helping students before they're in school, leaders of this pilot project say Utah could get more for its education buck.

An $800,000 grant is directed at 3- and 4-year-olds. They're not ready for school, but with the right daycare, they will be.

"Kids who start school behind, stay behind," said Brenda Van Gorder, who works in preschool services at the Granite School District. "It is so costly for us to try and do remediation."

The Granite district has developed a quality preschool program with a proven track record. In a 3-year study of 737 children, 238 -- nearly 30-percent -- had skills so low they could have been referred to special ed.

With early intervention, eventually only 11 children actually needed it.

"Some of the research tells us that there is a higher probability that these kids who've had high-quality preschool are going to graduate from high school," said Van Gorder.

Now, other preschool teachers and daycare centers will get specialized training through this public-private partnership.

"(Parents) don't have the time to be able to develop these things because they're working," said Patrick Marino, president of Lit'l Scholars. "We want to be able to fill in the gap for them."

Granite School District, Voices for Utah Children and United Way hope to pilot a model that could be implemented statewide.

"High-quality preschool is the most efficient and effective use of state money in terms of education," said Janis Dubno, senior policy analyst for Voices for Utah Children.

In fact, Dubno says for every dollar invested in early childhood learning, the state gets a $7 return. Educators and administrators are using numbers like that as they appeal to Utah lawmakers to support investments in preschool.