National News

NC wins $70M grant for early-childhood education

Posted December 16, 2011

— North Carolina is among nine states to share $500 million in grant money won in a high profile competition intended to jump-start improvements in often-overlooked early childhood programs.

The other winners, announced Friday at the White House, are California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.

North Carolina's application for nearly $70 million was fully funded, officials said.

The grant will allow the state to strengthen efforts to ensure that all children are able to start kindergarten with a strong foundation for future learning, according to Gov. Beverly Perdue. 

The state’s grant application proposed several initiatives, including:

  • Increasing the quality of early learning programs in under-served areas.
  • Expanding diagnostic screening programs to ensure early intervention for health and developmental problems for children.
  • Improving and expanding systems to gauge children’s progress.
  • Providing incentives and resources to support and strengthen the state’s early childhood workforce.
  • Providing training and assistance to help early childhood educators better engage family members in a child’s early development.
  • Establishing a “Transformation Zone” in selected high-need counties in northeastern North Carolina. Counties would be eligible for focused programs designed to improve the lives of young children and families.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan led a group of her North Carolina congressional colleagues, including Reps. Butterfield, McIntyre, Shuler, Watt and Miller, in supporting North Carolina's application in a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in November.

“We have long understood in North Carolina that our investments in education cannot wait until kindergarten or first grade,” said Hagan, a Democrat from North Carolina and a member of the Senate committee responsible for education policy.

“This grant will allow our state to continue the remarkable progress we’ve seen through programs such as Smart Start and More at Four," Hagan added. "I am proud to have joined other members of the N.C. delegation in supporting the state's application, and I thank all of our North Carolina teachers and education leaders for their service to our students.”

The money to aid the nation's youngest learners is part of the Obama administration's cornerstone education initiative – Race to the Top – which has states competing for federal dollars to create programs that make schools more effective. Last year, it handed out $4 billion in such grants focused on K-12 education.

The goal of this competition was to get more children from birth to age 5 ready for kindergarten. Thirty-five states along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico applied for the chance each to win between about $50 million to $100 million in prize money. The winnings are to go to build state-wide systems that affect all early learning programs, including child care, Head Start centers, and public or private preschools.

Billions are spent annually in America on early education programs, but the quality and availability of those programs varies greatly. Roughly half of all 3-year-olds and about a quarter of 4-year-olds do not attend preschool, said Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

Kids who attend quality early education programs have been shown to do better in school, and later in life, spend less time in prison and make more money. But children from low-income families who start kindergarten without any schooling are estimated to walk in the door 18 months behind their peers — a gap extremely difficult to overcome.

To win, states were asked to demonstrate a commitment to make such programs more accessible, coordinated and more effective. Providing professional development for teachers and creating ways to assess the education level of kids entering kindergarten were among the areas states were asked to focus on in their application.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were to announce the winners at the White House. The two agencies jointly administered the competition. HHS oversees the federal Head Start program, which provides early education to nearly 1 million low-income children.

Last month, Obama announced new rules that require lower-performing Head Start programs to compete for funding. The Education Department also has proposed creating a new office to oversee the grants and better coordinate early learning programs.


Online: Education Department:

Department of Health and Human Services:


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  • mikeyj Dec 23, 2011

    Reading some of these is just like wow. I am 2nd gen American of Irish rooting. Growwing up my father had a deal with me. While reading a book, If I came across a word I did not know then Dad and I went to a dictionary together. 1st one was the word valises in fact. If I played the games of getting mom or dad to do my homework I was asked a common question. "Are you asking or telling me the answer". Webster's Dictionary was on our household bookshelf. Mom taught me the pronunciation symbols. We played scrabble and Boggle and had family nights. What's wrong now with today's youth? Age 3-teen. Lazy feeling entitled parents. IMHO Merry Christmas. It is called Christmas by our family.

  • Rico Dec 20, 2011

    All we need is another welfare program from the head liberal in charge and all his minions here in NC.

  • barbstillkickin Dec 19, 2011

    I am sure Purdue will find a reason to not use this money for our young. She might even make it disappear like I wish she would. I hope this money is used to help the young ones prepare for what their lives hold before them. My sympathy goes out to all parents of young children.

  • jevansjr2 Dec 19, 2011

    My son is in a Title 1 Pre-K program right now. It is funded through the federal government NOT the state. Income is not used to get into a Title 1 Pre-K. You don't even have to give your income when applying. They test each child to see if they qualify. Several (including myself) are upper middle class people who can not afford preschool. We do no receive medicaid or food stamps nor want to. My son has changed remarkably since August. He has matured in ways I didn't think were possible. These are good programs. I am a Republican but I don't see why everything HAS to be political. Not everyone who is receiving these services is a "free-loader". These funds will go to help children who might have a speech problem get services they need. An autistic child get the therapy he needs. I am sure there are some people who are out to get anything free but not all. You shouldn't punish everyone for the sins of some.

  • Ripcord Dec 16, 2011

    "You can now rent atlas shrugged at red box. It should be a must see for public school students instead of the science fiction movie by gorp."

    Yes! Atlas Shrugged should be REQUIRED reading in high school.

  • Nancy Dec 16, 2011

    This money isn't "for the children" and for those who believe it will ever truly benefit them directly or even indirectly, are confused. There are specific ways the money can be used and it's not classroom education.

    But keep supporting this waste and when the expected results you have don't materialize, ask for more money - as if that has ever solved anything of the 'underclass' in society. 50 years ought to prove it rarely does.

    Race to the Top funds can be used in four areas: professional development for staff, principal leadership, using data to refine instruction and turning around low-performing schools.

  • stubbo19992 Dec 16, 2011

    This money will never to toward the Education of our children. It will go into someone's pocket.

  • whatelseisnew Dec 16, 2011

    ""Only hate-filled ignorant right wingers would see this grant to help educate children as a bad thing." - geosol"

    Only a hate-filled ignorant leftist would believe that spending money we do not have on failed Government run efforts is a good thing. The kids will end up paying for this. I can not imagine the kind of tax rates they will be paying because we have an out of control foolishly run Government.

  • vraptor Dec 16, 2011

    Oh goody. More for pooh at 2. Peee at 3. More at 4.

    You can now rent atlas shrugged at red box. It should be a must see for public school students instead of the science fiction movie by gorp.

  • whatelseisnew Dec 16, 2011

    Well hopefully this will pay off for these kids, because they will be the ones saddled with the cost of paying that money back to China with all the interest. Our Government is quite insane.