States Race to the Top for Early Childhood Education Dollars
Early childhood education has been caught in something of a conundrum. On the one hand, parents, teachers and other education advocates agree that the critical learning years from ages 0-5 are and important time to begin long-term learning success. On the other hand, the pragmatic hand, funding for early childhood education has been a challenge for many states.
This week, early childhood education makes a reappearance in the news with renewed examination into the federally funded “race to the top” program–which provides competitive grants to states leading the way in comprehensive, coherent, statewide education reform across four key areas. These criteria include:
-Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace;
-Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals how to improve instruction;
-Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
-Turning around their lowest-performing schools.
The federal funds total $4.35 billion and this time around, with an announcement from the Education department about $500 million of grant money specifically for early education, states have their eye on money for preschool programs.
According to research from the Journal of the American Medical Association and used by Preschool California to make the case for early education, preschool participation increases the chances of graduation from high school, decreases the likelihood to need special education, to be held back a grade, or to get in trouble with the law. The research was based on a 20 year long study tracking development of 1,000 low-income children.
But with budgets tight at the state level, many governors are vying for federal dollars. The “race to the top” funding seems a perfect fit as arguments for preschool education tend to support the same goals as the funding requirements.
In August of 2010, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced 10 new grant winners in the second phase of race to the top funding. In a statement about the funding, Secretary Duncan said that the 10 winning states have adopted rigorous common, college- and career-ready standards in reading and math, created pipelines and incentives to put the most effective teachers in high-need schools, and all have alternative pathways to teacher and principal certification.
Though many states came close, they were eventually left empty-handed but now have a chance to compete again.
This time around, the federal government will make available $500 million dollars for the race to the top early education fund. States set to apply include Illinois, Georgia and many others.
The investment in early education represents a commitment to start at the beginning and give children basic skills all while instilling a love of learning. Advocates who had long called for real tangible investments in preschool will be glad to know that the funds are up for grabs.
Now the question is, with so much need, which states will craft the most successful proposals?