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New grant competition to increase access to high-quality preschool

Federal Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell and Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently announced that applications are now available for the $250 million Preschool Development Grants competition.

The goal of Preschool Development Grants is to support states — including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico — in building, developing and expanding voluntary, high-quality preschool programs in high-need communities for children from low- and moderate-income families. The new grant program will be jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.

“When we invest in early education, the benefits can last a lifetime,” Secretary Burwell said. “Children who attend high-quality early learning and preschool programs are more likely to do well in school and secure good jobs down the road. We all gain when our country has a stronger, more productive workforce, lower crime rates, and less need for public assistance. These Preschool Development Grants will help put more children on the path to opportunity.”

“Through the Preschool Development Grants, we continue our efforts to create educational opportunities that prepare our youngest Americans for success in kindergarten, through elementary school and beyond,” Duncan said. “This new grant competition will prepare states to participate in President [Barrack] Obama’s proposed Preschool for All program — a federal-state partnership that would promote access to full-day kindergarten and encourage the expansion of high-quality preschool programs for 4-year-olds from low- and middle-income families. We urge states and communities to seize this opportunity, form partnerships, and begin drafting their proposals for the Preschool Development Grants program, because providing high-quality early learning opportunities is the most important single step we can take to improve the future of our young people.”

Across the country, there is tremendous unmet need for high-quality early learning programs. Only 40 percent of eligible children have access to Head Start and less than one-third of all 4-year olds in the U.S. are enrolled in state preschool programs. Studies demonstrate that children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.

Under the Preschool Development Grant program, states with either small or no state-funded preschool programs will be eligible for Development Grants, while states with more robust state-funded preschool programs, or that have received Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants, will be eligible for Expansion Grants. The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services intend for high-quality preschool programs to be located in regionally diverse communities, or consortia of communities, in cities, towns, counties, neighborhoods, districts or rural or tribal areas with a high level of need or distress as determined by the state. Preschool programs funded under either category of grants will need to meet the competition’s criteria for high-quality preschool programs.

All states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are eligible to apply.

Applications are due by Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. Awards will be made in December 2014.

President Barrack Obama is committed to closing the opportunity gap and working with states and local communities to ensure high-quality early learning for every child, so that all children enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and in life.

The president’s 2015 budget request would create a federal-state partnership that would ensure universal access to high-quality preschool for all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families, with incentives for states to provide high-quality preschool for all 4-year-olds. It also includes support for other early childhood investments as part of a cohesive system of early learning and development for children, beginning with prenatal care and continuing through third-grade.

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