More federal education money is coming to Delaware. The First State will get nearly $50 million to fund improvements at early childhood education centers.
Delaware is one of nine states to share in $500 million of federal grant money through the Obama administration’s Race to the Top education initiative. The purpose of the early childhood grants is to get more children from birth to age 5 ready for kindergarten.
“The research is clear that investing in early childhood education pays economic dividends,” said Delaware Governor Jack Markell. “We must invest in our future, and we are.” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says improvements in early childhood education pays dividends throughout a child’s education. “The best early learning programs boost student achievement and increase both high school and college graduation rates.” Duncan says, “High quality early learning opportunities are especially important for low income students.”
The state’s plan focuses on four steps:
–The expansion and redesign of the Delaware Stars for Early Success quality rating program,
–Building a professional, effective workforce of high-quality educators,
–Supporting the health and development needs of the whole child (including mental health services),
–Improving data to improve Kindergarten readiness.
“Our plan matches additional support with greater accountability, to ensure more students show up the first day of kindergarten ready and able to learn,” Markell said.
Last year, Delaware won $119 million in federal money through the main Race to the Top competition. The state has four years to spend that money on things like the STEM Residency Program. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program is run through the University of Delaware, which recruits people with STEM expertise, who then enroll in graduate education courses while gaining hands-on experience as well. The state is also funding a college readiness project through Race to the Top. Through that effort, the state can pay for every junior in Delaware public schools to take the SAT’s.
Secretary Duncan says the fact that Delaware was already involved in education reform through the initial Race to the Top funding played no role in the Early Learning Challenge grant award. “These are judged independently, so the fact that a state won or didn’t win the previous Race to the Top application had zero impact here.” He says, “I have tremendous confidence in Delaware’s leadership.”
Earlier this year, Governor Markell unveiled plans to spend $22 million in state funds to improve early childhood education. That plan called for $9 million to increase the amount paid to child care providers through the purchase of care reimbursement. To improve the quality of early childhood programs, Markell proposed spending $10 million to reward providers that earn ratings of 3, 4, or 5 stars. He also planned to offer $3 million in merit awards for centers and teachers that move up to the next rating level.