Vermont was awarded $7.3 million in what is expected to be a $33.4 million, four-year federal grant for pre-kindergarten programs at public schools and Head Start agencies throughout the state.
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) announced the grant today.
Sanders, a member of the Senate education committee, worked with the U.S. Department of Education, the congressional delegation and the Shumlin administration to secure the funding to operate the Pre-K program.
"At a time when working families are struggling to find quality and affordable child care, this grant is a big boost for Vermont," Sanders said. "The grant will help Vermont lead the nation in early-childhood education as we better prepare our kids for school and the challenges and opportunities of life."
"Vermont has always understood the importance of early-childhood education and how effective it can be in helping children break the cycle of poverty," Leahy said.
"This is great news for Vermont and recognition of the quality of our education system and its leaders," Welch said.
"Vermont is one of the top states in America when it comes to early childhood education, and we're committed to being the best. We know that investments in our youngest children pay huge dividends in their ability to achieve in school and succeed in life," Shumlin said. "We will use this $33 million directly to expand access to quality early education for Vermont children most in need. I congratulate those at Agencies of Education and Human Services, my own staff, and our many grant partners statewide for their hard work in securing these funds for our children," the governor added.
The latest award is in addition to $37 million Vermont received last year to lay the foundation for its pre-K program. The earlier federal grant made the state eligible for today's round of awards to implement the program.
Sanders, Leahy and Welch made the case for Vermont's application in an Oct. 10 letter from the delegation to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. The letter said Vermont has demonstrated a strong and enduring commitment to provide early-education for all 4-year-olds and called the state "a model for other states and federal policymakers that will demonstrate the profound impact and effectiveness universal pre-kindergarten can have on the healthy development and future success of low-income students."
The grants to Vermont were announced as President Barack Obama prepared to host a White House meeting today on ways that early-childhood education narrows the achievement gap and boosts children's earnings later in life.