The Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge has selected five states that will receive a portion from the program's $133 million grant fund. Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin will put the money to use expanding the access and improving quality of early education opportunities available in the states.
The Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge first launched in 2011 and is jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. States wishing to get a chunk of the available funding submitted a proposal to outline the improvements they planned to make to their early learning efforts and the steps to increase access for a larger proportion of children.
"Every child deserves the lifelong advantages of a high-quality early learning program," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Thanks to the leadership of governors, state officials, and education advocates across the now 14 Early Learning Challenge states, thousands more of our youngest children will receive a stronger start to earning the skills needed to succeed in Kindergarten through college and career."
The program sought proposals from states on improving early education access for children with special needs who have been traditionally underserved. The first year, 37 separate applications were submitted with nine states – California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington – receiving a portion of over $500 million to implement their proposals.
For the more modestly-funded second round, the money went to the states that were the next highest scoring after last year's winners. States were asked to alter their proposals to take into account that only 50% of the money that the proposals initially called for would be made available.
"The Obama administration is raising the bar for quality in early education programs," said Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. "Providing a strong foundation for all children to learn through life is an investment in our nation's economic future."
The award announcement included the exact amount each state will get from the grant fund to put their plans into practice. Illinois will get the largest chunk at $34,798,696, followed by Colorado with $29,907,000, New Mexico with $25,000,000 and Wisconsin with $22,700,000. Rounding out the five was Oregon, which will receive slightly more than $20,000,000.
The grants will be disbursed in four parts, with one payment per year over four years.