SLCO approves new joint public/private preschool program for low-income kids

July 16, 2013
Author: Eric Ethington | Utah Political Capitol

The Salt Lake County Council has approved a new initiative proposed by SLCO Mayor Ben McAdams (D) that will expand preschool access for low-income children.

The new program will partner Salt Lake County, school administrators, United Way of Salt Lake, and private donors like Goldman Sachs to create a jointly public/private venture, expected to give 600 low income children in the Granite and Park City school districts access to high quality preschool. That will take a significant chunk out of Granite’s current waiting list of 1,100.

“As a parent and as a taxpayer, I believe that education is the best investment we can make in our hildren,” said Mayor McAdams in a press release. “Every Utah child should have the opportunity to achieve his or her potential — regardless of their zip code or economic circumstance.”

“We applaud the Council’s decision today,” said Deborah Bayle, President and CEO,United Way of Salt Lake. “Without high quality, early education opportunities, it will not be possible to achieve our state’s goals of 90 percent proficiency in core subjects, 90 percent high school graduation and 66 percent of Utahns with a post-secondary education.”

The Salt Lake County Council has pledged $350,000 in funds towards the new program, while Goldman Sachs is planning to invest up to $4.6 million.

“Our investment of $350,000 will result in an estimated $1.2 million in ‘cost avoidance’money we won’t have to spend on drug abuse and drug crime, incarceration, or gang involvement,” said McAdams. “I’d much rather spend a dollar on a preschool classroom than four dollars on a jail cell.”

For their part, Goldman Sachs says they expect to make money on the venture. “This is cutting-edge stuff, an amazing example of how we can use capital markets to address social needs,” said Alicia Glen, head of Goldman’s urban investment group. “Everybody is clear that this is new territory for innovative financing. We won’t be able to prove it until we do it.” Utah spends $2,600 a year per child for remedial services in public schools, and the bank would earn money by reducing the number of kids who need the special education.

**For more details on the new program, read the presentation provided by the Mayor’s office: