The Utah School Readiness Board has approved more than $12 million in grant applications for the upcoming 2021-22 school year.
The money will support a mix of private, public, charter, and Head Start schools across the state.
Utah’s Student Readiness initiative aims to expand access to quality preschool education for children ages three to five. It focuses on economically disadvantaged children and English language learners.
On May 26, the School Readiness Board of Directors considered two separate grant programs. The Becoming High-Quality grant awards preschool classrooms $628,000 with a cap of 22,000 per classroom. The money must target early childhood education quality improvements in the school.
The Expanded Student Access Grant will fund nearly 3,000 preschool-aged children in qualified preschool programs. It will cost almost $11 million. A mix of public, private, charter and Head Start schools will now receive various amounts of funding ranging from $2.5 million in the Granite School District to $41,000 for the Smart Kids Program in Taylorsville.
Utah Department of Workforce Services Contract Manager Jolene Hill presented the board with the details of the grant application process. She said it was patterned after the state procurement guidelines so that it is fair and transparent. Applicants had a chance to clarify requirements and the selection committee did a blind review. She said the DWS and Utah State Board of Education put together the selection committee.
Hill told the board that applicants could attend pre-proposal meetings for both grants. They hosted a live Q and A page that also published the information so applicants could gain access to the same information.
“Expanded Student Access actually had a two-phase review process,” she said. “So, the first phase was the quality phase, and they had to meet a minimum threshold of 100.5 points. They were required to submit a portfolio, they submitted classroom recordings and they had a recorded interview. There were 25 applicants, 22 screened through that first step, one didn't meet the quality requirements, and then two others didn't submit complete applications at that point."
The Park City School District applied for $100,000 through the Expanding Student Access Grant to help fund the district preschool. The application was denied. School officials said they do not know the reason for the denial.
The childcare division of the DWS will have to renew funding each school year to continue support for early childhood education for underserved families. They said the funds supporting the two grant programs are a mix of state and federal dollars.
KPCW news reports on issues affecting young children and their parents are brought to you by the Park City Community Foundation’s Early Childhood Fund. For more information, visit earlychildhoodalliance.net.