Pennsylvania and New Jersey are two of six states that won a piece of $280 million in grant money to improve early learning programs.
The money will be used to improve early learning programs for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, and Vermont were the winning states in the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge.
The Keystone state received $51.7M.
The winners were announced by the Education and Health and Human Services departments. The two agencies jointly administer the program.
This is the third time these early learning grants have been issued. Fourteen other states were previous winners.
The winning states must show a willingness to carry out comprehensive improvements to programs focused on children from birth to age 5.
According to a news released from state officials, the money will be used to support Governor Tom 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.
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.