Governor Synder’s office excitedly announced a huge win for early childhood in Michigan, Thursday November 19 the receipt of a $52 million Federal Race-to the Top Grant. As the state’s second attempt at the coveted federal grant the funds will be used to supplement the governor's agenda for increasing early childhood services in the state over the next four years. This announcement comes right on the heels of the Michigan Kid’s Count data detailing even more children living below the federal poverty line in Michigan which has been shown to be a key indicator in determining school readiness and success.
Approximately 182,000 children ages 3 through kindergarten will benefit from the federal funds. In order to close the school achievement gap, the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge intends to improve access to high quality early childhood education services. Governor Snyder’s administration had committed to increasing access to early childhood through an increase of $65 million this year and another $65 million next year for the Great Start Readiness Program. The Race to the Top funds will not replace this promised increase but provide services in addition.
"The federal grants will allow us to reach even more families and help children," Snyder said in a statement. "Michigan’s Race to the Top Award – the first ever for our state – aligns perfectly with our ambitious early childhood investments. This is not a replacement for our current and future investments, but rather a very significant addition to our efforts to give children in Michigan a great start."
The grant application spells out a plan for improving early childhood education including scholarships, promoting health and nutrition standards and increasing the number of providers who participate in the quality rating system. With the additional funds, the state plans to increase opportunities for child care providers to increase their quality through additional professional development opportunities. In addition the state plans to construct a statewide early childhood data system which will allow for continued program assessment and accountability.
While the Michigan Department of Education is the primary grant holder, the agency will also coordinate services with Department of Human Services, Department of Community Health and the Early Childhood Investment Corporation.
2013 marks the third round of Early Learning Grants that have been made available. Recipients must show they are able and willing to improve early childhood services on a comprehensive scale addressing the the various needs of children in poverty. Many changes and improvements have already been put in place in order to be competitive in this grant process including implementing a quality rating system for child care providers and a kindergarten entry assessment.