A Recap of the Early Childhood Education Symposium

05 Oct A Recap of the Early Childhood Education Symposium

On September 26th, a group of educators, community leaders and early childhood experts gathered at the University of Utah. This elite group, organized by Dr. Ruth Watkins, discussed the well-known benefits of early childhood education. Children who receive pre-K education are more likely to:

  • Break the cycle of poverty
  • Finish high school
  • Continue to university studies
  • Contribute to the economic success of their communities


In fact, Nobel Laureate and University of Chicago economist James Heckman has found that investment in the future of our children has a “return on investment” rate of between 6 and 10 percent! This highlights the importance of preparing children for school, not just for their own success, but for the greater benefit of society.

One highlight of the symposium was a case study presented by Jennifer Landrum, President and CEO of the Denver Preschool Program (DPP). This remarkable program brings universal pre-K education to the residents of Denver through a small increase in the local sales tax. Voters approved the increase to fund the preschool program, and DPP works with school districts, Head Start programs, and private preschool providers to ensure high quality and access for all families.

Participants in the symposium also heard from Mayor Ben McAdams and Salt Lake City Chief of Staff Patrick Leary on their cities’ efforts to bring universal preschool to this area. Both support the work of early childhood educators and hope to apply the Denver model to our community. They stressed the importance of creating a future workforce that can attract economic development, high-paying jobs, and excellent employers to Utah.

Other presenters covered the cost and possible revenue streams to pay for universal preschool, the necessity of ensuring quality, and strategies for encouraging participation among families of all backgrounds.

Please read this excellent opinion piece by Dr. Ruth Watkins to see how educators at the highest levels are advocating for early childhood education.

It will be very exciting for Utah Community Action to guide these efforts in the next few years. We enthusiastically support the concept of universal preschool and are eager to use our expertise to drive the continuing conversation.

We assist income-eligible families with services including Adult Education, Case Management & Housing, HEAT, Head Start, Nutrition and Weatherization to help them achieve self-reliance.