CA wins Race to the Top award

Despite prior setbacks, California was named Friday as one of winners of the federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge bringing a $52.6 million grant to support pre-K programs.

In a statement issued today, Gov. Jerry Brown said he was pleased federal officials finally approved a California application under the Race to the Top competition - something that has been rejected three times in the past.

Local education leaders have developed solid proposals for improving early childhood education, which have now been recognized by the Obama administration," Brown said.

The governor's proposal, marked by clear messages to federal officials that by undertaking the new endeavor the state would not be adding any new burdens to the general fund, relies on an existing network of preschool programs, many of them operated by First 5 commissions statewide - commissions that are independent and would participate in the new early learning program voluntarily.

It was the patchwork of independent agencies and board that made the California proposal unique - but clearly its innovation was also attractive too.

"This grant will help more California children get good care and a good start at learning, which we know is key to their long-term success, at school and beyond," said state school chief Tom Torlakson in a statement. "I'm proud of the teamwork that led to this win for California, and I'm grateful to President Obama for recognizing the potential of regional partnerships to improve child care programs across our state."

The original request from California was for $100 million and it is unclear why federal officials granted half that amount. In total, the U.S. Department of Education had $500 million to split between 37 states and federal jurisdiction that applied.