CA loses out on Obama preschool grants

CA loses out on Obama preschool grants

(Calif.) The Golden State was not among the winners of a large $226 million preschool expansion grant announced Wednesday by President Barack Obama.

However, needy preschoolers in the state’s northern most reaches will gain access to quality early education programs under a new, smaller grant that supports the partnering of Early Head Start with child care providers to expand the number of ‘high-quality’ slots for babies and tots.

“We’re disappointed, but we are pleased with the terrific news that the Department has been chosen to receive a grant that will help the infants and toddlers in nine Northern California counties,” California Department of Education spokeswoman Pam Slater said.

Both grant programs are part of a larger budget initiative launched by the Obama administration to help states and local communities provide educational preschool to every child so they all enter kindergarten prepared to succeed in school. The president hopes to fund the 10-year, $75 billion initiative with an increased federal tobacco tax but needs Congressional support to do so.

Obama was in attendance Wednesday at a White House Summit on Early Education, where recipients of a variety of education programs were named, including 18 winners of the new Preschool Development Grants. California was among the 36 states that had applied for a share of the program’s $250 million, set aside to promote high-quality early education, including ensuring that preschool teachers receive salaries comparable to their K-12 counterparts.

Part of the grant was reserved for states without a robust early-childhood education program or that hadn't already won one of the administration’s Race to the Top-Early Learning grants. Collectively, five states – Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Montana and Nevada – were awarded a share of $56 million in this category.

An additional $170 million went to 13 states with more robust preschool programs, or that had previously received a RTT-ELC grant.

Both competitions gave priority to states that agreed to use 50 percent of the funding to expand preschool slots for low-income children, and both call for states to make strong connections between early-learning programs and K-12.

California in 2013 won a $55 million RTT-ELC grant it is using to design a statewide quality rating system for preschools and child care agencies in order to effect improvement.

The new $4.4 million Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership grant received this week will be used to enhance child development services for 260 high-need infants and toddlers residing in nine rural Northern California counties, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Wednesday.

Children served in the Partnerships will receive comprehensive services which include education, health, child development, and family support services under Early Head Start and benefit from high-quality services that meet state and federal standards, according to the California Department of Education.

CDE is one of 234 applicants in 49 states, Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; and the Northern Mariana Islands that will receive more than $435 million in funding to help offer such care and services.

“Nothing is more important than ensuring children receive quality early education in a safe environment,” Torlakson said in a statement. “We welcome this grant to help build upon our existing state-funded child care and development programs. It will be especially helpful to these rural counties.”

The nine counties are Butte, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Mendocino, Sutter, Trinity, Yuba, and one additional county yet to be named.