South Salt Lake Early Learning Network


Lead Organization: United Way of Salt Lake 

Key Partners: Voices for Utah Children, Children's Service Society, Salt Lake CAP Head Start, Utah Department of Workforce Services, Utah Health Policy Project, Granite School District Preschool, South Salt Lake, and United Way of Utah County – Help Me Grow

Project Location: South Salt Lake, Utah

Contact: Bill Crim, Sr. Vice President, Collective Impact and Public Policy, United Way of Salt Lake, or (801) 736-8929

Project Description: 

The County Health Rankings show that where you live matters to your health. South Salt Lake, the seven square mile city just south of Salt Lake City, has many resources and assets that make it a great place to live. However, nearly half of South Salt Lake’s residents live in homes with less than $35,000 annual household income. Among similar-sized communities in Utah, South Salt Lake has some of the highest rates of obesity, chronic cigarette smoking, binge drinking, mental illness, and prescription drug abuse.  In previous years, South Salt Lake has had the highest rate of violent crime in Utah, but over the past three years, the City has noticed a 76 percent decrease in gang-related juvenile crime and a drop in overall crime of 23 percent.

To continue addressing these issues, local schools, community partners, and the City of South Salt Lake are rallying around a common goal to ensure all kids go to college or obtain a post-secondary degree, certification, or credential. The path to a better future for the kids of South Salt Lake begins before the schoolhouse door: early childhood education is essential to educational achievement and has a direct impact on people’s health and financial well-being. In 2012, high school and college graduation rates were below state averages and less than half of South Salt Lake students were reading on grade level.  However, early data from the 2012-2013 school year indicate increases in the percentage of children proficient in math and language arts.  In addition to these academic gains, there are many other successes that show great promise for South Salt Lake and its residents, such as an increase in the percentage of students staying in the same school for the entire academic year.

United Way of Salt Lake and the City of South Salt Lake have embarked on the Early Learning Network project which creates a comprehensive, integrated early-learning system for children from birth to age five. The goal of the project is simple: children will enter kindergarten ready to learn. The multifaceted approach will include working with partners to educate business, education, and government leaders about the benefits of high-quality early learning; supporting high-quality preschool legislation; using data to promote statewide high-quality standards and the first pre-school “social impact bond” or pay for success transaction where cost avoidance due to high-quality preschool will be reinvested to provide high-quality preschool for more children. 

The Early Learning Network’s proactive approach to improving education at the earliest possible point in life is poised to create a brighter future for South Salt Lake’s kids. Research shows that evidence-based investments in children from birth to age five improve school readiness and lower rates of crime, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and obesity. For the return on this investment—like the potential of every child—the sky is the limit.

Matching funds will be provided by The Mark and Kathie Miller Foundation. 

Why this work is important:

  • Early childhood education is essential to academic achievement and has a direct impact on people’s health and financial well-being.
  • Individuals with higher levels of education tend to live longer, healthier lives. 

Relevant Information from the 2014 County Health Rankings:

  • Salt Lake County ranks 17th out of 27 counties in social and economic factors.

  • Salt Lake County’s high school graduation rate is 72 percent; this is lower than the state rate of 76 percent.

  • Seventeen percent of Salt Lake County children live in poverty, compared to 13 percent in top U.S. performing counties.