While the news about the federal budget process seems to be full of potential harmful cuts to children and their families, when the dust settles, the early learning field may emerge with a new seed of federal funds to improve states’ efforts for young children.
In the past two years, the concept of a new federal “Early Learning Challenge Fund” has been a carrot just out of reach. Now it appears all but certain there will be a competitive federal funding stream devoted to helping states develop more coherent, higher quality early learning systems.
This state competition – currently for one-time funds – will reside within the Race to the Top K-12 education reform initiative. Our partners at First Five Years Fund summarize what they have learned here.
We still don’t know how much money the federal government will award, or how it will evaluate states’ applications. And the Obama administration has not yet announced whether the program will be integrated into or stand apart from the application process for Race to the Top. That’s important, as a stand alone competition among early learning initiatives is our state’s best chance to compete for these funds. Details are expected on May 15.
But we do know that once the call for proposals goes out, time will be short. Since the law says this money has to be out the door by the end of the calendar year, it’s likely that states will scramble to develop competitive proposals this summer.
That means Washington should start thinking now about how we might respond, so we can be as ready as possible to seize the opportunity.