Pre-K grants for low-income kids awarded to 18 states

Pre-K grants for low-income kids awarded to 18 states

(District of Columbia) Awards for the third installment of the federal Preschool Development Grant program will provide expanded access to new or improved high-quality preschool classrooms across 18 states.

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. announced nearly $250 million in awards directed toward states working to develop pathways to high-quality preschool for children from low- to moderate-income families.

“High-quality early education gives children the strong start they need to succeed in kindergarten,” King said in a statement. “All of our children—regardless of socioeconomic status, race, language spoken at home, disability or zip code—deserve the kind of high-quality early learning opportunities that will prepare them to thrive in school and beyond.”

Research shows that participation in high quality preschool programs has positive short- and long-term effects, including higher academic achievement, reading comprehension and social-emotional competence. There is also an increased likelihood that a child will graduate, have fewer mental and physical health issues, find a career and avoid involvement in the juvenile or criminal justice systems.

Expanding high-quality early education has long been a priority of the Obama Administration–with more than $1 billion invested in Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grants across 20 states–especially for communities with high numbers of low-income families. Additionally, almost 70,000 more pre-Kindergarten programs in states involved in the Early Learning Challenge now participate in quality rating systems to improve performance–double the number five years ago.

According to administration officials, efforts have resulted in hundreds of thousands more children from socioeconomically disadvantaged households having access to high-quality, state-funded preschool and other early learning programs since 2011.

The Preschool Development Grant, jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, has invested $750 million across 230 high-need communities, allowing preschools and other early education programs to expand full-day lessons, reduce class size or child-teacher ratios, support compensation for highly-qualified teachers and provide them evidence-based professional development.

Last school year, more than 28,000 children from low-income families had access to high-quality early learning, with states including Alabama, New Jersey, Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia exceeded their enrollment targets. Another 35,000 students were enrolled this year.

More students with disabilities have also seen higher rates of participation, with the 18 states committing in their applications to provide more inclusive opportunities. Last year, of the 28,202 children served, 8.5 percent were children with disabilities–slightly more than 2 percent above the national average of 4-year-olds with disabilities in the United States.

The Every Student Succeeds Act includes a new preschool program with provisions to promote coordination in early learning among local communities; align preschool with early elementary school; and boost states’ capacities to provide high-quality early learning opportunities.

Currently, President Barack Obama’s 2017 budget proposes funding to expand high-quality preschool–including $350 million for the Preschool Development Grant program to help states lay the foundation for universal public preschool–but with many still unsure of the details of the incoming administration’s plans for early education, actual spending is likely to change.