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We Can't Wait: Nine States Awarded Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grants Awards Will Help Build Statewide Systems of High Quality Early Education Programs


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Office of the Press Secretary, The White House


Today, the White House announced that nine states—California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington—will receive grant awards from the $500 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge fund, a competitive grant program jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.

President Obama asked Congress in his budget to authorize and make permanent an Early Learning Challenge Fund in previous years. Unfortunately, Congress did not act on that proposal, so the Administration took action to ensure this program was funded this year through Race to the Top, because our kids only get one shot at a top-notch education and they cannot afford to wait.

"Education must be our national mission," said President Barack Obama. "All of us must work to give all our children the best education possible. And today, we're acting to strengthen early childhood education to better prepare our youngest children for success in school and in life"

Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius made the announcement of state grantees this morning at a White House event with over 100 early learning and development experts, educators, policymakers, and researchers.

"In a matter of months, early education and child development experts throughout the country, together with state and local leaders, worked to build comprehensive plans for expanding access to high-quality early learning," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "All applicants showed tremendous dedication and drive to build stronger foundations and create greater opportunities for more children. Their work will help lead the way in ensuring excellent early learning and support for every child."

"A strong educational system is critical not just for our children but also for our nation's economic future," said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. "The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge takes a holistic approach to early education, promotes innovation, and focuses on what it takes to help put young children on the path of learning, opportunity, and success."

Through the competition, 35 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico have created plans to increase access to high-quality programs for children from low-income families, providing more children from birth to age 5 with a strong foundation they need for success in school and beyond. The number and list of winners was determined both by the quality of the applications and the funds available.

The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge will support the work of the nine state grantees to develop new approaches to raising the bar across early learning centers and to close the school readiness gap. Awards will invest in grantees' work to build statewide systems of high-quality early learning and development programs. These investments will impact all early learning programs, including Head Start, public pre-K, childcare, and private preschools. Key reforms will include: aligning and raising standards for existing early learning and development programs; improving training and support for the early learning workforce through evidence-based practices; and building robust evaluation systems that promote effective practices and programs to help parents make informed decisions.

The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge is a key part of the Obama Administration's comprehensive early learning agenda. Alongside improvements in childcare and strengthening of the Head Start program, the agenda aims to guide all children down a path of success in kindergarten and beyond.

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. In rounds one and two, eleven states—Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee—and D.C. secured grants to invest in K-12 reform plans that raise academic standards, improve teacher and principal quality, build cradle to career data systems and turnaround persistently low-performing schools.

The fiscal year 2011 budget provided an additional $700 million to invest in early learning and elementary and post secondary education reform. In addition to the $500 million awarded today to Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grantees, seven states—Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—have applied for a share of the $200 million to invest in K-12 education reform. Awards will be announced later this month.

State data relevant to the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge along with peer reviewers' scores and comments will be posted online later today. Grant awards will range from around $50 million up to $100 million, depending on State population and proposed plans. Budgets will be finalized after discussions between the grantees and the Departments, and states will draw down funds in accordance with their plans.

To learn more about the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, visit http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-earlylearningchallenge.