WASHINGTON – A $37-million federal grant that Vermont won Thursday will be the largest single investment in early childhood education in Vermont’s history, according to Gov. Peter Shumlin.
The four-year grant, awarded as part of the federal Race to the Top program, will give more families access to early learning and development programs and provide professional development opportunities for teachers among other things, Shumlin said in a statement.
“This grant award will move our early-childhood system forward by improving quality and access of education and services, supporting and expanding our early childhood workforce, supporting families in need so that they can provide a better start for their children, and more,” the statement said.
Vermont was among six winning states in this third round of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, a $280 million state-level grant program designed to improve early childhood education for vulnerable children. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia applied for the grant.
The award follows complaints from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that Race to the Top funds mostly go to states with big-city school systems. Fourteen states have already received close to $633 million in Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge funds.
A member of the Senate education committee, Sanders urged Education Secretary Arne Duncan to help Vermont and other rural states.
“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 in life,” Sanders said in a statement.
Winning states created proposals to expand and improve services, particularly for children with high needs. That includes children from low-income families, those with disabilities and those learning English.
The program, jointly administered by the U.S. Education Department and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, is designed to supplement state investments for children from birth to age 5.
“This investment is a down payment to support and implement high-quality early-learning programs across the country,” Duncan said in a statement. “There is still a lot more work for us to do."
Also Thursday, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced that Vermont’s six Boys & Girls Clubs of America are being awarded $500,350. The latest round of awards from the U.S. Department of Justice brings the total for Vermont to more than $8 million since 2005. The funding supplements the clubs’ private contributions.