Pay for Success Catching on as Early Childhood Education Funding Option

A new poll shows that early childhood education is a national priority for Americans, regardless of party. Now more than ever, voters see quality early learning as a necessity for today’s families. But the question raised is how to pay for these programs. The Administration is working in multiple ways to find funding for early learning.

Pay for Success (PFS) is an innovative financing model that states and communities are studying, and beginning to use, to fund early learning and other programs. PFS leverages philanthropic and other private dollars to fund services for a target population that measurably improve the outcomes for the individuals and communities. Because it focuses on outcomes, PFS appeals to taxpayers who want their dollars spent wisely.

In a PFS project, clearly defined and measurable goals for the services are determined upfront. Private funders pay for the cost of the services, and government pays back the private funders, with a reasonable return, only if the goals are achieved. This allows the government to partner with philanthropies and other investors to help drive evidence-based innovation and invest in what works.

In order to deepen expertise and capacity in this area, ED recently announced that Janis Dubno has joined the Department as a PFS Fellow. Janis comes to ED from the Policy Innovation Lab at the University of Utah where she is a Senior Fellow. She has extensive experience in PFS and played a critical role in developing and implementing the first early education PFS project, located in Utah.

Initial and newly released results of the Utah project indicate the intervention and the financing mechanism have been successful. Fewer children required special education services in kindergarten as a result of having attended high quality preschool, triggering the first investor payment in a PFS project in the United States. In addition, the Utah Preschool PFS project helped gain bi-partisan political support for the first state appropriations for high quality preschool in Utah in 2014.

Janis’ efforts will directly build upon the significant work that ED has already undertaken to explore and advance uses of PFS models to improve student outcomes. She will also help ED develop new ways to use PFS to expand effective educational programs.

PFS supports ED’s interests in supporting initiatives that are based on evidence; focused on outcomes; and ultimately designed to improve early, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education while generating savings for taxpayers.

Libby Doggett is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education.


  1. I am a retired school supt of a district and currently appointed by former Gov. Perdue and now Gov. McCrory to represent NC at the national ECS conference for the last six years.
    I have begun to engage elementary school dads prior to their children school day begin (twice a month) on becoming better fathers.
    How may i access funding – and have been asked to commence another cohort in the PM and two other schools in the district (which I do not live in) have asked that i also start other cohorts; including one in Spanish as I am Puerto Rican.
    thank you
    Dr. Robert Landry

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