Sen. Bernie Sanders joined Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin at a Statehouse news conference in Montpelier, Vt., on Monday to highlight a $36.9 million federal Race to the Top grant. Rep. Peter Welch also participated in the news conference on the early education grant.
“Psychologists tell us that, in terms of human development, the most important years are birth through four years of age,” said Sanders, a member of the Senate education committee. “Yet, in terms of early childhood education, our nation does a very inadequate job in making quality pre-kindergarten education available to working families. This major federal grant will significantly improve early childhood education in our state and better prepare our kids for school and the challenges and opportunities of life.”
The governor said the grant will expand training, nutrition programs and other services that directly benefit children, especially those who are most at risk of struggling or failing in school. “Vermont’s kids will benefit immediately from these programs. The state will benefit long into the future with a better educated workforce, more high quality early childhood opportunities, and a fully-coordinated and accessible range of health, education and developmental services so every Vermont family gets the level of support they need.”
Key items funded through the grant include:
- $6.4 million to provide grants to communities for initiatives including after-school programs, local food hubs, transportation grants, community centers, and similar efforts designed to improve nutrition, support families, and increase access to early education .
- $3.5 million to provide annual financial awards for high-quality early childhood programs and additional awards to provide nutritional food to children in the programs;
- $1.5 million for scholarships for early childhood educators; and
- $1.3 million to train and support early childhood educators to meet health, nutrition and physical activity needs of all children.
Other programs include finalizing standards for early education care statewide, expanding training, screening young children, and ensuring appropriate services are available for children and families in need. The grant will also help expand home visits for pre-natal and post-natal households, create an apprenticeship program for early educators, provide for administration and outcomes measurement for the programs, and much more.
Vermont was one of six states, out of 18 that applied, to receive funding through the Race to the Top federal grant. The other states were Kentucky, Michigan, Georgia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The permitted uses of the grant funds are tightly prescribed by the federal government.