Gov. Peter Shumlin, joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Peter Welch, and a representative from Sen. Patrick Leahy's office, today announced that funding from the $36.9 million federal Early Learning Race to the Top Grant will ensure all Vermont children, including low-income and high-needs kids, will be ready to succeed when they enter school.
They said the goals of the grant are to expand public awareness of the importance of early education, significantly increase the number of participants in the Vermont Step Ahead Recognition System ("STARS' awards early learning and pre-kindergarten programs for additional quality training), and focus services on high-needs children.
"These are dollars that expand training, nutrition programs, and other services that directly benefit children, especially those who are most at risk of struggling or failing in school," the Governor said. "Vermont's kids will benefit immediately from these programs. The state will benefit long into the future with a better educated workforce, more high-quality early childhood opportunities, and a fully-coordinated and accessible range of health, education and developmental services so every Vermont family gets the level of support they need."
"An educated Vermont is a prosperous and better Vermont. Vermont has always understood the importance of early childhood education and how effective it can be in helping children break the cycle of poverty," said Sen. Leahy. "This funding will allow Vermont to reach an even greater number of young children and expand their programs to ensure all children have access to quality, early education. I am excited to see the great work made possible by this federal partnership with Vermont in the next few years and the difference it will make for so many Vermont families."
"Psychologists tell us that, in terms of human development, the most important years are birth through four years of age," said Sen. Sanders. "Yet, in terms of early childhood education, our nation does a very inadequate job in making quality pre-kindergarten education available to working families. 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 of life. I am very appreciative that the Department of Education provided Vermont with this major grant."
"This is great news for Vermont and recognition of the quality of our education system and its leaders," said Rep. Welch. "Investments in early childhood education give children the best opportunity to succeed in school and in their future careers. Vermont has distinguished itself with this integrated, statewide approach to serving and educating children."
Some of the key items expected to be funded through the grant are:
· $6.4 million to provide grants to targeted communities for initiatives including after-school programs, local food hubs, transportation grants, community centers, and similar efforts designed to improve nutrition, support families, and increase access to early education;
· $3.5 million to provide annual STARS financial awards for high-quality early childhood programs and additional awards to provide nutritional food to children in the programs;
· $1.5 million for T.E.A.C.H. Scholarships for early childhood educators to receive degrees or advance education;
· $1.3 million to train and support early childhood educators to meet health, nutrition and physical activity needs of all children; and
· Other programs include finalizing standards for early education care statewide, expanding training, screening young children, and ensuring appropriate services are available for children and families in need.
The grant will also help expand home visits for pre-natal and post-natal households, create an apprenticeship program for early educators, provide for administration and outcomes measurement for the programs, and much more.
Vermont was one of six states, out of 17 that applied, to receive funding through the Race to the Top federal grant. The other states were Kentucky, Michigan, Georgia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The permitted uses of the grant funds are tightly prescribed by the federal government, and final budgets from winning states are due in March.
"These grant funds will significantly accelerate Vermont's early childhood education efforts," said Gov. Shumlin. "But it is important to remember that these grant-funded programs are only part of the state's early education agenda. I also support bringing universal pre-kindergarten programs to those school districts that do not already offer them. Our children's future will be brighter because of all of these efforts."