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Ed. Dept. Awards $3 Million for 'Pay For Success' Early Learning Feasibility Pilots

Eight government organizations will receive a share of $3 million from the U.S. Department of Education to study how private money can be used to expand public preschool in their communities. 

The recipients are the Napa Valley Unified district, the Santa Clara County Office of Education and the Ventura County Office of Education, all in California; the Minnesota Department of Education, Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, the Cuyahoga County Office of Early Learning in Ohio, Clatsop County in Oregon and the Legacy Charter School in South Carolina. The organizations will each receive between $300,000 and $400,000 for the feasibility studies. The awards were announced Dec. 22.

Pay for success models invite private investors to fund public services with the hope of a financial return. One preschool pay-for-success model is currently operating in the 67,000-student Granite District in Utah. Investors are paying for prekindergarten with the hope that high-quality early education will reduce the Granite District's special education costs later.  The Obama administration has been looking for ways to see how pay for success might also be used for English-language learners, career and technical education and education for at-risk youth. 

These feasibility studies will help the communities determine what outcomes they're looking for, identify what interventions are most likely to lead to those outcomes, and identify stakeholders who would be willing to participate in such a program. 

The grants also were written to include safeguards for students with disabilities if organizations decide that reducing special education enrollment is their goal (Texas, for example, is facing increased scrutiny because educators there say the state decreased its special education enrollment by simply making it harder for children to be evaluated and identified.) 

In October, the Education Department awarded its first-ever awards supporting pay for success programs. Those awards were aimed at at-risk and English-language learners

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