Adams County School District 50 won a $120,000 grant this month to explore the use of the Pay For Success financing model to expand early childhood programming.

Part of the grant, awarded by the University of Utah’s Policy Innovation Lab, will pay for a new in-house employee to help determine the feasibility of a Pay For Success project in the district. Possible projects, all with the goal of improving kindergarten readiness, include the addition of full-day preschool spots, parent education programs, and home visiting programs.

The idea behind Pay For Success, or PFS, is that private investors or philanthropists pay upfront for social programs with proven results. If those programs save public money by preventing costly interventions such as emergency room visits or special education services, the investors are repaid with interest.

Early childhood PFS projects have gained traction in recent years because early childhood programs are frequently underfunded and also represent the front-end interventions that tend to produce significant savings down the road. A bill that would allow the state to participate in Pay For Success deals is currently under consideration in the legislature.

In Colorado, the Early Childhood Council of Boulder County is also considering an early childhood PFS project—the expansion of a home visiting program for at-risk families with babies.

Adams 50 was among two Colorado groups and six groups nationwide to receive the University of Utah grants. The other Colorado entity funded was the State of Colorado for a program to address chronic homelessness.

Aurora Public Schools, which had applied for a grant for a college and career readiness PFS project, did not receive an award.