Feds share long-awaited details on Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge

The speculation about an early learning-focused “Race to the Top” competition has been building for months, and today, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced a $500 million Early Learning Challenge competition among states.

“Race to the Top was an absolute game changer,” said Secretary Duncan during a press conference this morning. “We’re looking to have the same impact here in…early learning.”

States that successfully secure Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants will have comprehensive plans for an early learning system with clear standards, good coordination among early learning partners, robust evaluation systems, information for parents, and quality professional development for those who work with young children. With our state Early Learning Plan already in place, the early learning community in Washington is excited to compete for these funds.

As Secretary Sebelius noted this morning, “A lot of this work has been going on in states for really a decade or more. We want to be informed by best practices and help raise the bar and drive those practices even further.”

RTTT-ELC grants will be awarded by the end of calendar year 2011. Many questions about the application process remain, but one thing is clear: With such a short timeline, states’ applications will need to be out the door within a few months.

The public can give input to the process by visiting www.ed.gov/blog/2011/05/rtt-early-learning-challenge/. The U.S. Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services will jointly administer the grant, and say guidance and information about eligibility, range of awards and number of grants is coming in the next few weeks.