We can't wait for kindergarten to start preparing our children for success. Ninety percent of their brain development happens by age five and quality early care results in better educated, healthier, and more productive adults. That's why we've made access to high quality early childhood programs a top priority, by setting standards for what it means to be a top program and helping our best centers serve families that can't afford to attend. Our investments are paying off.
Last year alone, the number of low-income Delaware children attending a high quality program increased by 50 percent. That's 2,200 more children served here at St. Michael's and at other great centers across the state. Those kids are expanding their vocabulary, solving problems, and entering kindergarten ready to flourish. But we can do better for thousands more kids and their families.
I'm announcing enhancements that will help more early childhood programs receive high ratings and make it easier for disadvantaged kids to get the best care. Through federal grant money, four and five star programs will receive higher reimbursements for the cost of serving those kids. Recognizing our children's development starts the day they're born, these programs will receive additional funds for the increased staff necessary to work with infants. This funding comes with more accountability. To earn top ratings, programs will be asked to meet more specific criteria -- like a high level of staff training.
We've heard from providers about the resources they need to meet high standards, so we're increasing the assistance that's most helpful. Our children are our future. By giving them the best opportunity to learn and develop from the beginning, we'll keep Delaware moving forward.