Thirty-five states, plus the District of Columbia, are vying for a piece of the $500 million Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, a competition meant to spawn innovative approaches for improving the skills and development of young children.
The contest has drawn applications from states with very different early-childhood education systems. Eleven of the 12 winners in the two rounds of the earlier Race to the Top competition, which split $4 billion in awards, are making a bid this time. Only Tennessee elected to sit this one out.
One state that applied in the earlier round of Race to the Top, chose not to pursue the early-learning money after officials there raised concerns about creating a new program with one-time money.
Applicants will be eligible for early-learning awards worth between $50 million and $100 million, based on the details of the state’s proposal and its population of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
State applications were due this month, and the awards are expected to be announced in December. Unlike the earlier Race to the Top competition, which was overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, the early learning challenge is being administered jointly by the Education Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is heavily involved in early-childhood programs, most notably Head Start.