Regional Roundup: 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge

RTT-ELC grantees announced

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced that six states—Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont—will receive a total of $280 million in grant awards from the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) fund.

The grants aim to help build comprehensive systems that improve the quality of early learning and development programs throughout the winning states – a down payment on constructing high quality early learning systems that reaches all families. RTT-ELC supports states in their systemic efforts to align, coordinate, and improve the quality of existing early learning and development programs across multiple funding streams that support children from birth through age five.

Under the Obama administration, RTT-ELC has awarded over $1 billion to provide a strong start for our nation’s youngest children and to put them on the path to a bright future. The program is a key part of the administration’s comprehensive early learning agenda in combination with President Obama’s Preschool for All proposal. To learn more about yesterday’s announcement and the administration’s ongoing efforts to improve access to high-quality early learning, read this blog postfrom officials at the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Here is a small sample of the coverage that the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge announcement has generated in winning states:

PA — The Philadelphia Inquirer: Pa., N.J. among states sharing ‘Race’ funds

State education officials said major initiatives that will be funded by the grant include establishing 50 early childhood education “innovation zones” to develop strategies to support and engage families in the lowest performing-elementary schools, and launching four “Governor’s Institutes” that will bring together nearly 3,000 prekindergarten to third-grade educators to share experiences and strategies. “Quality matters,” said Barbara Minzenberg, Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary for the Office of Child Development and Early Learning. “It makes a difference in outcomes for children.”

PA – Allentown Morning  Call: Pennsylvania secures $51.7 million for early childhood education

The money will be used to improve access for children with high needs to quality early learning and development programs, Dumaresq said. It will also increase access and delivery of high-quality professional development for early learning educators, according to the state. The state will use its new School Performance Profile, which gives every public school a number grade out of 100, to identify the lowest performing elementary schools.

MI – Detroit Free Press: $52M federal grant will benefit education of 182,000 low-income Michigan children

The state aims to increase access to high-quality early childhood programs, increase opportunities for home care providers to improve the quality of their programs and expand training, especially for home care providers. Working with families, the state plans to ensure that more parents understand and are engaged in their child’s early learning. That includes involving more families and providers in efforts to identify and promote children’s physical, social and emotional health.

MI – The Detroit News: Michigan gets first federal Race to Top school grant

The Obama administration said Thursday that Michigan will receive $51.7 million in federal dollars aimed at improving access for early childhood education throughout the state. After several unsuccessful tries, Thursday’s award marks the first time Michigan earned federal Race to the Top dollars under President Barack Obama’s signature competitive educational grant program. “We had the No. 1 application, so that’s pretty cool,” Gov. Rick Snyder told The Detroit News editorial board Thursday afternoon in praising the grant award.

GA – The Augusta Chronicle: Georgia one of six states awarded millions for early childhood learning programs

Cagle said child care facilities participating in the voluntary program will receive higher reimbursements for expanding access to low-income children. Money will also go toward incentives for joining the evaluation system, which rates facilities on criteria such as learning environment, staff qualifications, physical activity and food nutrition. “We think investing early will increase educational outcomes,” Cagle said. “It will prevent much of the retaining of students in grades, which costs us about twice what it cost normally to educate students. We want to get it out there early and prevent having to invest on the back end.”

GA — Savannah Morning News Georgia receives Race to the Top funds for early learning programs

Georgia’s plan for its $51.7 million share of the Race to the Top-Early Learning funds is to use $25 million to increase the number of preschool and child care centers that earn quality ratings through Georgia’s voluntary Quality Rated System. Currently 1,300 of the 6,000 programs in the state have applied, according to Cagle. But he plans to increase that number by using the grant money to provide bonus payments to centers that earn high quality ratings. Centers can earn those ratings by implementing age-appropriate instructional programs outlined by Georgia Bright from the Start.

KY – Lexington Herald Leader: Kentucky among 6 states to receive $280 million in early-learning grants

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said quality early childhood education can mean the difference between success and failure for kids — especially those from low-income families. Better preparing young children for school has positive long-term effects on school achievement, whether a student is retained or placed in special education and ultimately whether he or she graduates from high school ready for college and career, Holliday said.

KY – Louisville Courier-Journal: 

The money, part of the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, will be awarded to the Kentucky Department of Education, which can use the money to establish quality early childhood education programs from birth to kindergarten, ensure that quality program standards are applied to all early learning programs in the state, promoting health and family engagement strategies and improve efforts to inform parents of early childhood program opportunities.

VT – The Times-Argus: Vt to get $37 million for early education

Calling it the “largest single investment in early childhood education in Vermont’s history,” Gov. Peter Shumlin celebrated news of the grant award Thursday. “This grant award will move our early childhood system forward by improving quality and access of education and services, supporting and expanding our early childhood workforce, supporting families in need so that they can provide a better start for their children and more,” Shumlin said. “It will mean more families will have access to high-quality early learning and development programs.”

VT – The Burlington Free-Press: Vermont wins education grant

“This major federal grant will significantly improve early-childhood education in our state and better prepare our kids for school and the challenges and opportunities in life,” Sanders said in a statement. Winning states created proposals to expand and improve services, particularly for children with high needs. That includes children from low-income families, those with disabilities and those learning English. The program, jointly administered by the U.S. Education Department and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, is designed to supplement state investments for children from birth to age 5.

NJ – The Associated Press: N.J. among 6 states to get ‘Race to the Top’ money for early childhood education programs

This is the third time these early learning grants have been issued. Fourteen other states were previous winners. In total, nearly $1 billion in grants has been distributed. The winning states must show a willingness to carry out comprehensive improvements to programs focused on children from birth to age 5. Details were expected to be released later today about what the winning states proposed to do with the money. “This investment is a down payment to support and implement high-quality early learning programs across the country,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “There is still a lot more work for us to do.”

NJ – The Asbury Park Press: N.J. to receive $44.3 million in Race to the Top funds

The grant will fund an initiative that sets standards to guide the quality of programming, broadens training for program staff, and provides parents with a Consumer Reports-like rating system of early learning providers, according to the state. The plan’s cornerstone is the statewide rating improvement system, called Grow NJ Kids, to expand from a pilot of 56 programs to 1,790 over four years. Participants will follow a set of standards aimed at improving programming quality, according to the state.

Stephen Spector is the deputy press secretary at the U.S. Department of Education