Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Senate OKs preschool plan for at-risk kids
Education » The measure would use private investments to fund grant program.
First Published Mar 12 2014 06:56 pm • Last Updated Mar 12 2014 08:55 pm

Some at-risk children in Utah may have more opportunities for preschool education under a bill that passed the Senate 17-10 Wednesday.

HB96 would provide $3 million to set up a grant program for schools and families to implement high quality preschool curriculum for at-risk kids. The funding would be used to attract private investors and if the program successfully keeps kids out of special education later on, the state would pay them back. If the program fails, the state would not have to reimburse investors. The bill, originally seeking $5 million before being scaled back, now returns to the House for appoval of Senate amendments.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"It’s a win-win for the state," said Deborah Bayle, president of United Way of Salt Lake. "If it doesn’t work, the state doesn’t have to pay the private investors. If it does work, the state doesn’t pay the extra special education costs."

Those eligible for the program are children in families beneath the poverty level who are projected to need special-education resources.

The state should be motivated to help kids stay out of special education, Bayle said, because such programs cost the state an additional $2,600 a year per student. And 90 percent of children who begin school in special education remain in it their entire school career, she said. "Kids and families win with this program and that’s really what it’s all about."

Sponsoring Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, called the bill innovative and said the program would be a cost savings for the state. Urquhart spoke about his daughter, who he said needs special-education resources because of health problems.

But some lawmakers were concerned about the funding mechanism. Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said he worries the funding will eventually take from the general fund.

Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, said he is worried about the future of the funding mechanism. It may avoid costs and shift kids away from special education, he said, but he wasn’t convinced it would result in overall savings because it might make room for more kids in state-funded special education.

Bayle said the passage of the bill is significant because lawmakers are recognizing the value of preschool for Utah’s children. In an earlier committee hearing, legislators debated the usefulness of preschool, arguing that young children should be at home with family, playing.

Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Holladay, who also has a child in special education, spoke in support of the bill. She praised the creativity in the private-investor funding mechanism.

story continues below
story continues below

She said many of the families who would benefit are working poor and that having a child in special education puts extra stress on them. "This is a family saver. This is not just cost avoidance," she said.

The bill also creates the School Readiness Board, which would act as a liaison between private investors and preschool programs receiving the funding.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.