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Salt Lake County Approves Public/Private Funding for At-Risk Preschool Programs

Bob Nelson

The Salt Lake County Council Tuesday unanimously approved a $350,000 expansion of voluntary preschool for at-risk children. It’s a public-private partnership between the County and Goldman Sachs, along with help from philanthropist J.B. Pritzker. Brenda Van Gorder is the Granite School District Preschool Services Director. She says kids who started as at-risk youth in district pre-school are entering 6th grade in the fall and are turning out to be great kids.

“And these young people, they have hopes they have dreams. And so what we have done today is we have opened up the world to 600 more children," Van Gorder says. "To open those hopes, those dreams, not just for those children but for their families. It changes everything. It changes it for them, but it changes it for our community, and it has the opportunity to change it for our state,” Van Gorder says.

She says years of research and anecdotal experience shows that these types of programs work and she’s optimistic they will be expanded.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams made the original request to fund the program. He says this is a scaled back version of results-based education funding legislation that failed on the state level. 1.3 million dollars has been committed to Granite and Park City School Districts by the private partners. Funding is to be paid back by the county and United Way from savings generated by the children who stay on grade with their peers and do not need special education. County Councilman Richard Snelgrove says he hopes this is just the beginning for this program.

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