Massachusetts wins funding under federal Early Learning Challenge competition

The White House announced on December 16 that Massachusetts is among nine states that have won funding through President Obama’s Early Learning Challenge competition, which is designed to encourage the development of bold and comprehensive plans for improving the quality of early learning programs across the nation.

Massachusetts will receive significant federal funding – up to $50 million – under the program to expand early education services and close the achievement gap. The amounts each state will receive are to be announced soon.

The MTA is on record in support of the Commonwealth’s winning plan, From Birth to School Readiness: Massachusetts Early Learning Plan, 2012-2015. In an Oct. 12 letter to state Early Education and Care Commissioner Sherri Killins, MTA President Paul Toner called the Massachusetts application “an ambitious, yet achievable plan for closing school readiness gaps and improving outcomes for all children, especially high-needs children.”

“Young children who have access to high-quality early education and professional educators have a clear advantage over their peers when they get to kindergarten,” the letter noted. “These funds will help us to give more children a solid foundation so they are ready to learn when they arrive in elementary school and not struggling to learn basic skills.”

According to Governor Deval Patrick, the plan will support the Commonwealth’s continued work across the education and health and human services sectors to build strong foundations for young learners.

Thirty-five states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico applied for the grants. In addition to Massachusetts, eight other states were named winners. They are California, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.

In 2010, Massachusetts secured $250 million in funds to implement reforms in public education as part of the federal Race to the Top initiative.

For more information on the early education initiative, see Governor Patrick’s announcement at http://www.mass.gov/governor/pressoffice/pressreleases/2011/111216-early-learning-challenge-win.html.