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Utah Offers Virtual Pre-K $3 Million for Expansion


Utah's legislature continues to bet on a new kind of preschool—a virtual one—committing five years and $3 million of taxpayers' money to expand UPSTART, a computer-based, in-home, free pre-K program. 

The money will be used to extend the program, which already receives state funding, so that it can reach 5,000 additional children starting this fall, up from 1,500 in previous years, said UPSTART Program Director  and Vice President of Development Claudia Miner, in a statement.

"It does work," said Republican Sen. J. Stuart Adams, in a statement. "It's astounding at what they can do with just 15 minutes a day at home."

The UPSTART program, short for Utah Preparing Students Today for a Rewarding Tomorrow, offers reading, math, and science, Miner said.

More than 7,000 preschoolers have participated in UPSTART since it began receiving state funding five years ago, she said. Now, with the additional state funding, the program will expand to serve approximately 25,000 children in its next five years.

State lawmakers aren't the only ones investing in virtual early-childhood education: The Waterford Institute, the Sandy, Utah-based nonprofit that develops research and curriculum for early childhood education and created UPSTART, was also awarded a $11.5 million grant in January from the federal government to expand the program in 18 rural Utah school districts.

Families interested in applying for UPSTART can register at www.utahupstart.org, or call 800-960-4002 if they do not have access to a computer. The next UPSTART program begins in July.

UPSTART is open to all preschoolers, but prioritizes lower socioeconomic-status children as well as English-language learners. Some participants may qualify for the use of a free computer and Internet.

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