Written by guest blogger Christina Samuels. This post first appeared on Early Years.
Several states that were not on the original “intent to apply” list are among the 36 applicants competing for a share of the $250 million the U.S. Department of Education is making available for states to beef up their preschool programs.
The department has divided the funds into two pots. In the smaller of the two, $80 million is allotted to preschool “development” grants, for states whose preschool programs are just getting off the ground. Separately, $160 million will go to states with more robust preschool offerings in place, or states that have already won a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant. An additional $10 million will be used for national activities such as technical assistance and program evaluation.
The applicants in smaller pool are Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Puerto Rico.
Alabama and Arizona were not in the original intent-to-apply group; notifying the Education Department of intent was not a prerequisite, but it did give the department a heads-up as to the level of interest.
States vying for a share of the large pot are: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
Of those states, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, and South Carolina were not on the orginal intent-to-apply list.
The Preschool Development Grants program have been caught up in some political wrangling. In Indiana, education officials worked on an application, but Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, after first giving his approval to proceed, declined to sign the application. “While I respect the views of those who support applying for federal pre-K funding, I stand by my decision. Federal funding does not guarantee success,” said Pence, a Republican, in a statement.
In Louisiana. Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, said the state would not move forward with an application unless it could be assured that it would not be connected in any way with the common core. After conversations with state education chief John White, Jindal allowed the application to move forward.
And in Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, in a tight re-election race against Democrat Mary Burke, has fielded some criticism from state Democrats for failing to apply for the money.