Funding opportunity: federal preschool grants

Funding opportunity: federal preschool grants

(District of Columbia) The $250 million preschool grant program, one of the few initiatives of the Obama administration not yet reversed by President Donald Trump, will begin again accepting applications starting Friday.

The Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five has been put back into the federal budget by Congressional leaders twice after Trump sought to eliminate it.

Jointly managed by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education, the program is open to all 56 states and federal territories. Grants range from $500,000 to $15 million.

The grant was created by the Obama administration and first issued under the banner of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. But unlike much of the recovery act, the preschool grants have attracted public support and bipartisan backing.

The general intent was to give states help to improve their existing programs and services. By all accounts, the program has been successful as a stimulus.

A survey report sponsored by Rutgers University on the state of the nation’s preschool programs found that total state spending on preschool has grown from $2.4 billion in 2002 to more than $7.6 billion in 2017.

During the same period, the number of states that did not fund preschool programs fell from 13 to six, while the number of states serving more than 50 percent of their 4-year-olds grew from two to 10.

The Rutgers report credited the federal grant program for motivating much of that growth.

The said that in 2016-17, about $91 million of the $230 million awarded that year went toward increasing enrollment or improving quality enhancement in state programs, while the rest was used to support children in preschool programs outside state-funded preschool.
The program has changed some after its reissue as part of the Every Child Succeeds Act.

One major objective of the new program is for the money to be used to better integrate early leaning services with those of the K-12 school systems.

As outlined in the application, states can use the money to conduct needs assessments and develop strategic plans. States can establish best practices to be shared between providers, especially to improve the transition from preschool to elementary school.

A key goal is to improve overall quality of early childhood education by using “evidence-based practices.”

Congress also intended that the federal funds would foster parent choice as much as possible.

Applicants have 60 days or until Nov. 6, 2017 to submit an application.

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