The Department of Education has announced a new grants competition for states to develop or improve their early learning programs. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made the announcement about the new $250 million Preschool Development Grants competition that will help states build, expand and improve high-quality preschool programs for children from low- and moderate-income families. The grants are for states to develop preschool programs or to improve or expand on existing programs.
Florida is one of the 35 states along with the District of Columbia that already have working programs and would be eligible for expansion funds, while 15 states and Puerto Rico have little to work programs for early education and can vie for development grants.
Kris Perry, the Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund, says Florida is near the top of the list when it comes to access to preschool programs for children. She says over 80% of the state 's children have access to preschool, although there are some regions doing better than others.
And according to Perry there are many long term benefits of early education saying "Evidence has shown over and over again that there are lifetime benefits from early learning programs. We've seen studies that have followed Head Start students into their 50s and evaluated how they're doing financially, how their health is and, frankly, just how they're doing emotionally...and they do better than children of the same age who didn't attend a quality early learning program."
Kris Perry also says any grants for Florida could be used to improve the quality and expand the existing programs. Like the Obama Administration's Race To The Top program, states will submit proposals for early learning projects according to the needs of their region.
States applications will be judged on several criteria, including implementation or improvement of high quality preschool programs, aligning programs with school districts and other early learning providers and creating a birth through third grade continuum of services. Applications are due on October 14.
Here is my full interview with Kris Perry