Urban Institute
Policy Analyst

Using SIPPRA funds for early childhood education

February 20, 2019 - 12:48pm

Welcome back to SIPPRA week! If you are new to this series, be sure to check out Monday’s blog post with FAQs from the NOFA, Tuesday’s blog post with a tool for assessing projects, and yesterday’s blog post that outlines considerations for costs and evaluations.

Though the Social Impact Partnership to Pay for Results Act (SIPPRA) isn’t directed at any single policy area, at least half of the funding authorized for outcomes is earmarked for programs that explicitly benefit children. Further, of the 21 specific outcomes that qualify for social impact partnership funding, over half of these outcomes focus on children, such as increasing the financial stability of low-income families or reducing the number of children returning to foster care.  

There is precedent for using outcomes focused on children in pay for success (PFS) projects. Active PFS projects that aim to serve children include:

While the SIPPRA legislation does not require PFS or early childhood education (ECE) projects specifically, its focus on programs which benefit children makes the Pay for Success Early Childhood Education Toolkit particularly relevant to those looking to apply for SIPPRA funds. The toolkit can provide step-by-step guidance for jurisdictions interested in exploring PFS projects focused on ECE.

Its resources include:

Using Data to Inform Decision-making

Working with childhood outcome measures and data systems can be challenging. It is important to have a strong data system in place to be able to identify a target population and intervention and to know if an intervention has successfully reached an outcome. This report provides a set of steps for collecting and using data and includes guidance on data-sharing across organizations.

Outcomes Measurement and Pricing

Measuring outcomes is an integral step to any successful program. This report provides examples of common ECE outcomes that could be relevant for a SIPPRA application and discusses approaches for assigning dollar values to selected outcomes measures.

Program Funding and Financing

Traditionally, organizations interested in pursuing PFS projects must identify a reliable funding stream to repay the PFS investors. However, with the SIPPRA legislation, the U.S. Department of the Treasury will make outcomes payments to the initial investor, removing one hurdle in pursing this type of project. Applicants are left to identify initial investors for their proposed intervention. This report describes funder incentives for entering a PFS contract and strategies for mitigating appropriations risks, with a lens to relevant funders in the ECE sector. The report does not cover how to determine the value that will come from the public sector savings, or the decrease in federal outlays, and federal tax receipts, or the potential increase in revenue, as a result of the program. For a SIPPRA award, the applicant must demonstrate the outcomes and the federal value  to activate the outcome payment, which is not accounted for in the toolkit.

Evaluation Design

While evaluation is often thought of at the end of a project, strong evaluation design should be considered from the beginning. The SIPPRA legislation requires applicants to include evaluation design in their proposals. This report provides an overview of possible evaluation designs, as well as specific examples of evaluation designs for existing PFS ECE projects. To note, the SIPPRA Notice of Funding Availability indicates a preference for a randomized controlled trial (RCT) as the evaluation design method; if applicants can make the case that an RCT is not feasible, they may employ a quasi-experimental design. Organizations looking to learn more about evaluation design should also reference this blog post from earlier in our SIPPRA week series.

Getting Started

Even if your organization is hoping to apply for SIPPRA funds with program outcomes other than early childhood education, this toolkit can be a helpful resource to walk through the various components—data systems, outcome selection and pricing, project funding, and evaluation— necessary to building a successful outcomes-based financing social impact project.

For more resources to guide you in your SIPPRA application, be sure to consult the Urban Institute’s full SIPPRA week blog series and SIPPRA page. Tomorrow’s blog post will outline the roles of the US Commission on Social Impact and the Interagency Council. Next week, the blog series will wrap up with a summary of the resources the Urban Institute can provide to potential SIPPRA applicants, and on Thursday, February 28th, please join us for a webinar to learn more about these new federal funding opportunities for PFS projects. Our team will review key takeaways from the SIPPRA NOFA and answer your questions about PFS.

Have a Pay for Success question? Ask our experts here!

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