2015 Top 25
Salt Lake County, UT
Innovations in American Government Awards

Salt Lake County's Pay for Success voluntary preschool program closes the math and language arts achievement gap that occurs when children enter kindergarten without having attended a high-quality preschool and are subsequently behind in vocabulary and other skills. More than 30 years of academic research has documented that by the time such children reach third grade, they are almost always consigned to special education classes. Pay for Success preschool was conceived as a pilot program after research from two nonprofits — United Way of Salt Lake and Voices for Utah Children — on the results of early childhood education was presented to state legislators and the mayor’s office. The County Council gave bipartisan budget approval for a one-time $350,000 appropriation. The funding facilitated a public-private partnership to expand voluntary public preschool for an additional 600 economically disadvantaged children in the county. It is thought this was the first time in the US that a county government entity participated in a pay-for-success endeavor.