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California seeks Race to the Top grant for Early Learning Programs

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, October 20th, 2011 at 1:19 pm in California, Early learning programs, Education.

Although California has been criticized for failing to signal early interest in a No Child Left Behind waiver, the state is not shying away from going after a federal Race to the Top grant to support early childhood education.

State schools chief Tom Torlakson announced Thursday that California has submitted an Early Learning Challenge grant application for up to $100 million. But California will face competition from 34 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico for the $500 million available.

“Our application reflects California’s dedication to the principle that — even in these challenging times — every child deserves the opportunity that comes with a good start in the lifelong journey of learning,” Torlakson said in a news release.

“We know that investments in early learning pay off for our state, our society, and for California’s children. I’m hopeful that federal authorities will see that this application represents an opportunity to build on state and local efforts to help close the achievement gap by improving the quality of California’s early learning and care programs.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the competitive grant program in May along with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The funding is intended to increase the access of low-income and disadvantaged children to quality early childhood education programs.

To be eligible for the funding, states were required to design systems that align early learning programs, workforce development, evaluations, and parent outreach.

More information about the grant program is at

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who is pushing California to apply for a No Child Left Behind Waiver, said today that he was happy his home state entered the competition.

“I am excited to see that so many states are applying to be a part of this innovative and critical initiative,” Miller said, in a news release. “It shows the vast interest and broad consensus about how important high quality early education opportunities are to our nation’s future. I’m especially pleased to see that California decided to apply. Our children begin learning well before they enter kindergarten and our investments in education should reflect this reality. I look forward to seeing the results of this competition. Regardless of who wins, our country will be stronger when more children have access to great early learning programs and I applaud Secretaries Duncan and Sebelius for taking this step in the right direction.”

The U.S. Department of Education expects to award grants to “states that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive early learning education reform,” according to its website.

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