Harvard recognizes Salt Lake County preschool program as one of the best in innovation (Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Harvard University has recognized Salt Lake County's public-private preschool program as one of the best in the country for government innovation.

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government noted Salt Lake County’s Pay for Success Funding for Preschool — under the leadership of United Way of Salt Lake — as a top 25 program in this year’s Innovations in American Government Awards competition.

Salt Lake County in 2013 began participating in the first Pay for Success public/private partnership to help expand access to voluntary, high-quality preschool for 600 children from low-income families.

With a unanimous vote from the County Council, Mayor Ben McAdams budgeted a one-time appropriation of $350,000 for a Granite School District program, in order to make more slots available to 3- and 4-year-old children living in the Granite District.

Tests administered to children entering preschool — and then again at the end of second grade — show that participation in high-quality preschool dramatically narrows the math and language academic achievement gap between low-income children and their better-off peers.