Preschool partnership for at-risk children passes hurdle, draws criticism

Posted at 9:31 PM, Feb 06, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-06 23:31:44-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Education Standing Committee of the Utah House of Representatives voted to recommend a bill that would create a public/private partnership funding preschool tuition for at-risk children.

Rep. Greg Hughes, a Republican from Draper, is the sponsor of House Bill 96, School Readiness Initiatives, which builds off a program administered by the United Way of Salt Lake.

The program would ask organizations and corporations to invest in preschool education with the possibility of getting their money back with interest. The investors would provide up-front funding for children who could not afford it otherwise to attend private preschools or the money would open up slots in public preschools. If the children successfully transition to public education without the need for remedial programs, the state would pay back investors with interest.

Supporters saID the state would save millions of dollars down the road as children would thrive rather than being a drag on the system, and they saID the United Way initiatives in Salt Lake County have proven the principle.

The children would only enter the preschool programs at their parents' request.

Opponents said the program is an incremental encroachment of government into parenting, moving toward an ultimate end in which children are compelled to start school as young as three or four years old.