In an August 23, 2011 press release, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the final details and application for the $500 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) competition that was announced in May. Under the RTT-ELC program ED and HHS will award grants ranging from around $50 million up to $100 million to the winning states, based on the state’s population and proposed plan. The goal of the competition is to encourage states to enhance pre-school programs to better prepare children with high needs for kindergarten. The press release stated that “the U.S. lacks a coordinated system for improving and evaluating early learning and development programs as well as sharing best practices across programs and states” despite research showing that high-quality early learning programs improve children’s health, social-emotional development, cognitive ability, and school success.
The RTT-ELC Executive Summary states that the program is not for the creation of new early learning and development programs or for maintaining the status quo. The program is intended to support states that demonstrate their commitment to integrating and aligning resources and policies across all state agencies that administer public funds related to early learning and development. The competition provides states with an “unprecedented opportunity” to focus on their early learning and development systems for children from birth through age five and help close the wide school readiness gap that exists between children with high needs and their peers.
Additional information and the RTT-ELC application are available at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-earlylearningchallenge.