Washington Wins ‘Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge’ Grant
The Obama administration announced this morning that Washington is one of nine states to receive a Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge grant. The competitive grant will bring up to $60 million over four years to the state to support programs aimed at improving the quality of early learning programs.
Thirty-five states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico applied for the funds. The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge is a key part of the Obama Administration's comprehensive early learning agenda. Those making the announcement in Washington, D.C., included U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
"In a matter of months, early education and child development experts throughout the country, together with state and local leaders, worked to build comprehensive plans for expanding access to high-quality early learning," Duncan said in announcing the grant winners. "All applicants showed tremendous dedication and drive to build stronger foundations and create greater opportunities for more children. Their work will help lead the way in ensuring excellent early learning and support for every child."
The funds offer a much-needed infusion of cash to the state's early learning efforts at a time when legislators are looking for ways to plug a $2 billion budget hole.
“This is very welcome news and helps us further give our children every possible tool that they need to excel in today’s world,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire in a statement. "Washington’s application shone because it was a truly collaborative effort. We brought together public and private partners in early learning and K-12 to improve school readiness for all children in Washington and the Washington way proved successful. The early years of a child’s life are the most important. It is our responsibility to embrace, support, and nurture that understanding.”
Washington's plans for the grant include: expanding the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), our state’s kindergarten readiness assessment, to include all incoming kindergarteners by school year 2014-15; expanding the state’s quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), which helps early learning programs improve the quality of care and education they provide to young children and provides information on quality to families; and enhancing the state professional development system by offering awards and incentives to those who work with and care for young children.
The state's early learning and public education leaders also welcomed the news.
“This incredible opportunity means that the more than 73,000 children who start kindergarten in Washington each year will hit the ground running,” said Department of Early Learning Director Bette Hyde. “We were bold and ambitious in writing our application, and we will be equally ambitious as we use these funds to build the early learning system our children deserve.”
A goal of the state's early learning programs is to ensure that students enter kindergarten ready to be successful in school.
“If kids get the high-quality early learning opportunities they need, that sets them up for greater success when they reach the K-12 system,” said Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. “Moving WaKIDS to scale will give our teachers the data they need, and make parents true partners in their child’s education from day one.”