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PA & NJ granted Race to the Top money for education

Published On: Dec 19 2013 06:00:22 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 19 2013 10:39:51 PM EST

Early education has received a shot in the arm from the federal government.

Early education has received a shot in the arm from the federal government.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania are among several states that received millions of dollars in grants to help the youngest of learners.

Pennsylvania Department of Education Acting Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq says it's a very exciting day for early education students..

The US Department of Education has awarded Pennsylvania nearly $52 million and New Jersey $44 million in Race to the Top program funds.

"What this grant will help us to do is to focus on the 50 lowest performing elementary schools and going into those communities and creating what we call in the grant early childhood education community innovation
zones," said Dumaresq.

Dumaresq says 500 of Pennsylvania's lowest performing school districts are eligible to compete for the zones.

But every school will learn from them.

"There will be a method where we disseminate those results so that all of Pennsylvania's schools can benefit from the results and the findings of the innovation zones," said Pennsylvnia Deputy Director Child Development and Early Learning Barbara Minzenberg.

In New Jersey, educators say the funds will help implement the New Jersey Early Learning Program.

A statewide plan to provide expanded early childhood education opportunities with a focus on giving parents more information and program facilitators more tools to help young children learn.

"We anticipate our effort will reach at least 83,000 high-needs children, from pregnancy through age 8, over the four years of the grant," said Education Commissioner Chris Cerf.

Educators in both states say funds will also be used to improve learning evaluation tools and professional development.

Educators say because the awards were just announced it will take time to finalize their plans.