U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced today that six additional 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 to improve access to high-quality early learning and development programs throughout their states. These six states join the 14 existing state grantees who secured funding in the first two rounds, which began in 2011.
Under this Administration, RTT-ELC has awarded over $1billion to provide a strong start for our nation's youngest children and to put them on the path to a bright future. RTT-ELC is a key part of the Obama Administration's comprehensive early learning agenda in combination with President Obama's Preschool for All proposal. 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.
"By investing in high-quality early learning through programs like Race to the Top --Early learning Challenge, we are able to close achievement gaps, provide life-transforming opportunities for children, and strengthen and build a thriving middle class," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Thanks to the leadership of governors, state officials, and education advocates, these states have created plans to develop high-quality early learning systems that improve the quality of learning to provide our youngest citizens with the strong foundation they need for success in school and beyond. This investment is a down payment to support and implement high-quality early learning programs across the country. There is still a lot more work for us to do."
"This administration is committed to ensuring all children have a chance to succeed," said Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. "An investment in our children is an investment in our nation's future.
States may use RTT-ELC funds for such activities as:
Establishing culturally, linguistically, and developmentally appropriate early learning and development standards across all the essential domains of school readiness for children from birth to kindergarten entry.
Ensuring that quality program standards are applied to all early learning programs in the state.
Building and improving state Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement Systems designed to inform parents about the quality of early learning programs and drive improvements to the quality of those programs.
Promoting health and family engagement strategies.
These elements are critical components that states must address in a comprehensive way so that investments in preschool, child care, and other early learning and development programs fit together in a way that improves the overall quality of services and enables parents and providers to make informed decisions about the care provided to their children.
The RTT-ELC program is jointly administered by The U.S. Department of Education and 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. Through the RTT-ELC, states created proposals to improve early learning by coordinating existing programs, evaluating and rating program quality and increasing access to high-quality programs, particularly for children with high needs including those from low-income families, children with disabilities and English learners. In the first year, the Departments received 37 applications and nine states were awarded grants: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington. In 2012, five additional highest-rated states were awarded grants: Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin.
In addition to funding RTT-ELC to support early learning, the President's 2014 budget request calls for a historic new investment--$75 billion, in fully offset mandatory funds, over a 10-year period--in preschool education that supports universal access for all four-year olds from low-income and moderate-income families through a partnership with the states. The proposal also calls for Early Head Start-child care partnerships and an expansion of Home Visiting. President Obama understands that the stubborn opportunity gap that confronts far too many American children and limits their life chances, often begins before they even enter kindergarten. The Administration's investment in coordinated state early learning systems and the President's plans to increase access to high-quality early learning opportunities complement each other to give America's children a strong start.