The U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced they will invest the majority of the 2013 Race to the Top funds for a second Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge competition. About $370 million will be available this year for states to develop new approaches to increase high-quality early learning opportunities and close the school readiness gap. Today's announcement furthers the Administration's work to expand access to high-quality early learning programs for all children, especially those in disadvantaged communities.
"Expanding access to high-quality early learning opportunities is simply one of the best investments we can make in our country, and these funds can help states develop and strengthen programs that serve America's youngest learners," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Getting our children off to a strong start not only increases their individual chances for lifelong success, it helps create the conditions for a thriving middle class that will forge the path into a bright future for our entire country."
"As any parent knows, the first few years of a child's life are critical," said U.S. Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Kids who attend high-quality early learning and pre-school programs are more likely to do well in school. They're more likely to secure a good job down the road. And they're more likely to maintain successful careers long-term."
The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge is a key part of the Obama Administration's comprehensive early learning agenda. The program is jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the two agencies are continuing to work closely together on new initiatives to expand and improve services for children from birth through age 5.
Last week, President Obama detailed his FY 2014 budget proposal, which would invest $75 billion over 10 years in fully offset funding to create new partnerships with states and provide high-quality preschool to more communities, helping ensure that all children enter kindergarten ready to learn. In addition, the 2014 education budget provides $750 million in complementary discretionary funds to help states strengthen their early learning systems and prepare to expand access to high-quality preschool. The President's budget also invests $1.4 billion in HHS's proposed Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Initiative to increase effective early care and education for infants through age three. To ensure that our most vulnerable Americans are on track from birth, the budget also seeks to expand the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program by providing a long-term $15 billion investment beginning in FY 2015.
Race to the Top, an education reform initiative announced by President Obama in 2009, has been a catalyst for advancing state-led efforts to improve education. The bulk of the 2013 Race to the Top funding will go toward the Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge for both a new competition and to provide supplemental awards for six state grantees – California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin – who had only received 50 percent of their initial request.
About $120 million of the 2013 funds will be used for a second round of the Race to the Top-District competition, which supports locally developed plans to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare students to succeed in college and their careers. In the first round, the Department awarded $383 million to 16 Race to the Top-District grantees representing 55 districts. In a Federal Register notice today, Department proposed a set of priorities for this year's competition, which will again support bold, innovative reform at the local level. The Department will collect public comment on the proposed priorities for 30 days.
More information about the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge and the Race to the Top-District competition, including current grantees, is available on the Department's website. Additional details about both programs will be announced in the coming months.