Expand access to educational opportunities

Erin is deeply and personally invested in the success of our public schools

Image of pages of Erin Mendenhall's plan for the education with the words DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE PLANAlthough City Hall does not have direct authority over schools and education in our city, mayors have a responsibility to work to improve access to educational opportunities for our families and outcomes for our students. Mayors are also responsible for ensuring that all children have a safe environment to learn and grow — from neighborhood safety to transit access.

Erin sends her two school-age kids to public school so, like every public-school parent, has a deep and vested interest in ensuring those schools and neighborhoods are as strong and safe as they can be.

Erin is committed to ensuring that all Salt Lake City children get the best possible education every single day. When we protect kids, support families, stronger neighborhoods, and prepare our future leaders, we create a better quality of life for all our residents and stronger economic future. We are in this together.


Effective, high-quality after-school programs bring a wide range of benefits to youth, families and communities. They boost academic success, reduce risky behaviors, promote physical health, and provide a safe, structured environment for the children of working parents. They also support working families and strengthen our economy.

At the start of the 2019 school year, 1,700 students were participating in afterschool programs but more than 700 children who would normally be enrolled in after-school programs were put on waitlists and unable to enroll — stranding parents and short-changing students. The next mayor should work with the School District and City Council to address this problem.


As mayor, Erin will:

Bring Salt Lake City to the education table

Although the city does not fund education directly, there are opportunities to better participate in our public-school system. Improving the education and care our children receive, directly affects our city’s economy, need for services, and overall well being of residents. Erin will utilize her role as Mayor to increase communication with the School Board and actively participate in supporting educational policy in Salt Lake City.

Increase funding and support for after-school programs

Salaries for after-school program staff in Salt Lake City are very low and have made it very difficult to hire and retain qualified staff. Understaffing prevents programs from enrolling enough children to reach capacity and forces many children onto waiting lists, making it difficult for families to plan work and life. Salt Lake City has the tools to address this problem and as mayor, Erin will explore funding options, including using future tax increment from RDA project areas to support after-school programs financially.

As Mayor, Erin will explore co-location of city programs at schools to reduce barriers to access. She will work to connect county and city-funded recreation and library programs with Youth City community partners to improve the diversity quality of available programming. Erin’s administration will help connect parents with after-school programming options and will bring together public and private transportation officials to explore ways to transport children to after-school and summer programs at no or low cost.

To help fund expanded programming, Erin will use the mayor’s office to advocate for state and federal dollars and she will convene philanthropic organizations and business leaders to develop a fundraising strategy to support more young people in programs across the city.

Expand Youth City program to address after-school care shortage

Youth City is a city-subsidized after-school program that provides after-school and summer care and education for students grades 3 through 8. This program is currently located in five neighborhoods and provides hundreds of children with after-school activities ranging from academic work to nature hikes. As mayor, Erin will work to expand the Youth City programs through partnerships with more City Recreation centers and schools to expand the locations for the Youth City program and serve more neighborhoods.

Launch the Salt Lake City Reads campaign

The Salt Lake City School Board has identified two goals for the district: increasing literacy rates and focusing on social and emotional learning. Reading builds literacy skills and opens children to new experiences. The Salt Lake City Reads program will build from other successful city-led initiatives across the country, and model the benefits of reading across the city. Through partnerships with Salt Lake City Libraries and the school district, Erin will work to introduce this year-round reading program.

Offer childcare to city employees

Childcare is important not only for children, but it provides stability for families, especially parents who work outside of school hours. Accessing childcare is difficult for families across our city, including those who work inside our city government. As mayor, Erin will work to a program to provide childcare for the children of city employees. Introducing childcare to Salt Lake City is could potentially benefit many city employees and possibly others in need of childcare services.

Work to close the opportunity gap

Salt Lake City has a deep economic and racial divide that is rooted in a historic policies, while these policies no longer exist, they persist in shaping outcomes. This history has impacted every aspect of life for those who live in marginalized communities and it has a very real impact on the opportunity gap. The city has a responsibility to ensure that all residents have equal access to resources – a situation that is not the case today.

Teachers have the most power to help a student close the opportunity gap. We need to empower our teachers and work with them to ensure that they have what they need to be the best teachers possible. We also need to ensure that teachers can afford to live in our city. Although the city has no control over teacher salaries, we can help expand access to affordable housing and strengthening programs to help teachers buy homes in the communities where they work.

As mayor, Erin will fight for economic equity across the East and West sides of our city and work to close the opportunity gap. Focusing on economic equity across our city will help close opportunity gaps for students and their families, while expanding access to transportation, housing and other opportunities throughout the city.

Expand apprenticeship programs for young Salt Lakers

Under Erin’s administration, Salt Lake City will work to partner with more companies committed to creating paid apprenticeship programs for students in our city the way she has as an RDA board member with Stadler Rail.

Apprenticeship programs provide students an opportunity to gain real job skills, earn while they learn, and receive recognized qualifications. These types of programs prepare youth for college or entrance into the workforce. The city’s partnership with Stadler Rail has enabled Salt Lake City School District to create a model for apprenticeships that can be used with more corporate partners. Existing programs in Salt Lake City could be enhanced to engage more youth, such as the Urban Forestry or public safety programs. Erin’s plan to build a sustainable tech ecosystem in Salt Lake City will also seek to create opportunities for apprenticeships with innovative high-tech companies.