HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Corbett has announced that the U.S. Department of Education has awarded Pennsylvania $51.7 million through the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant program.
“High-quality early learning programs are known to improve student achievement and prepare students to enter kindergarten,” Corbett said. “As a national leader, Pennsylvania offers early education opportunities to our youngest citizens and this investment will help us to further improve and expand our existing quality programs.”
Over the next four years, the grant will be used to support Corbett’s vision for early childhood education in Pennsylvania, which includes closing the school readiness gap that exists between children with high needs and their peers as well as increasing the number of children who are able to read and do math at grade level by the end of third grade.
Major initiatives to be funded by the grant include:
- Establishing 50 local Early Childhood Education Community Innovation Zones to serve the lowest-performing elementary schools in the state. Each zone will complete a comprehensive needs assessment and with assistance from the state each area will develop strategies focused on increasing family supports and engagement; developing stronger relationships between early childhood education programs and school districts; and strengthening the network of community organizations that serve families with young children.
- Improving access for children with high needs to high-quality early learning and development programs.
- Increasing access and delivery of high-quality professional development for early learning educators.
- Developing a no-cost universal Kindergarten Entry Inventory for voluntary use by schools to better understand the needs of students entering kindergarten.
- Operating four governor’s Institutes for nearly 3,000 pre-kindergarten to third-grade educators and practitioners to experience and share strategies and best practices.
“These initiatives further solidify my administration’s strong commitment to early childhood education and the need to ensure that students are provided with quality learning opportunities,” Corbett said. “I am pleased that Pennsylvania has been awarded this grant to continue investing in our students to ensure their future success.”
As a strong believer and supporter of early childhood education, Corbett has increased the state’s support of early education programs by $43 million over the last three years. In the 2013-14 state budget, Corbett increased funding for Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance by $6.4 million, which is serving an additional 1,000 students.
The budget also included an additional $6.8 million for Early Intervention, $6.5 million for Keystone STARS and $9.3 million for the child care subsidy program. These funds will be used to provide services to more Pennsylvania children as well as enhance program quality.