By Katherine Klem, Director Policy Innovation and Impact
The Institute for Child Success (ICS) is proud to announce an exciting result of a feasibility study it coached in Tempe, Arizona: Tempe has decided to expand free high-quality preschool!
With funds from the federal Social Innovation Fund Pay for Success (PFS) program, ICS has provided technical assistance over 10 months to guide the City of Tempe to conduct a feasibility study to explore the use of PFS financing to expand high-quality preschool. ICS and city officials presented findings of the study to the Tempe Work Study Session of the City Council recently, and the City Council decided during the same meeting to launch this expansion of high-quality preschool, pending a formal Appropriations vote later this Spring.
PFS financing taps private capital to cover the upfront costs of providing services, like high-quality preschool, and allows government to pay only if those services are proven by an independent evaluator to have achieved certain outcome goals (e.g., improving kindergarten readiness by a certain percentage among a particular target population over a set number of years). The study concluded that PFS financing is not the right fit for Tempe’s preschool expansion at this time but that the need to expand high-quality preschool is deep and the opportunity to build a robust evidence base on how local preschool affects outcomes is compelling.
“ICS is a true partner to cities and other jurisdictions exploring ways to better serve our youngest constituents,” said Tempe Councilmember David Schapira. “They bring to bear research and intellectual capital to help policymakers formulate the most holistic, effective, data-driven plans to benefit young people in our communities. The next generation of Tempe children will reap the rewards of our partnership with ICS.”
What Tempe Envisions
Tempe will be expanding their provision of high-quality preschool in a two-year pilot program known as “Tempe Free PRE (Preschool Resource Expansion)” to offer support to Tempe’s youngest and most vulnerable residents. In its initial expansion, Tempe aims to increase the number of full-day, full-year seats for low-income 3- and 4-year-olds by adding classrooms in schools already rated as high-quality 4- and 5-star providers. These ratings are assessed by Quality First, the Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) run by First Things First, which is Arizona’s only public funding source dedicated exclusively to early childhood education. Quality First is based on North Carolina’s evidence-based Smart Start QRIS, which has produced outcomes that have been well-documented in rigorous research studies. Based on Quality First’s similarities with Smart Start, Tempe expects to see increased kindergarten readiness among children attending preschool in these new high-quality classrooms.
Read more in the Arizona Republic’s coverage here.
What We Think at ICS
ICS is delighted to have partnered with our City colleagues in Tempe over the past year and look forward to following the outcomes that are achieved through this expansion.
“We have never before seen such immediate action flow from a Pay for Success feasibility study in the U.S., from our work or that of our peers,” said Jamie Moon, President of ICS. “We congratulate the City of Tempe on this important step forward and thank the Social Innovation Fund for the work it has enabled to help this community work to improve the lives of children. As a proposal to eliminate funding for the Social Innovation Fund has surfaced in Washington, it is more critical than ever that we highlight and celebrate the real change that this program is helping communities create for themselves.”
ICS believes that PFS is one powerful tool to pilot and expand services to improve lives of children, especially those in need. But PFS is just that – a tool – and the ultimate goal is better outcomes for children across the country. ICS applauds the City of Tempe for the bold action it has taken to help children thrive in their earliest years. ICS is proud of its partnership with Tempe and the Social Innovation Fund, which exemplifies ICS’s commitment to ensure the success of all young children.