The application for the Preschool Development Grants is now available. The $250 million initiative will support states in building, developing and expanding voluntary, high-quality preschool programs for children from low- and moderate-income families. Awards will be made to state agencies. Applications are due October 14, 2014. Awards will be announced in December 2014.
Full-day, high-quality public prekindergarten programs are a birth-to-eight policy strategy producing significant outcomes for children and providing a path to reading proficiency by the end of third grade.
In North Carolina, the state’s public prekindergarten program, NC Pre-k, is changing the trajectory of thousands of four-year-olds. The latest evaluation of the program found that participating children are progressing at an even greater rate than expected for normal growth. Students showed significant gains across all areas of learning, including language and literacy skills, math skills, general knowledge and social skills. (1)
Earlier research revealed that children enrolled in the state’s pre-k program continued to make gains even after leaving it. At the end of third grade, children from low-income families who had attended pre-k had higher reading and math scores on the North Carolina end-of-grade (EOG) tests than similar children who had not attended the state’s program. (2)
Less than a quarter of the state’s four-year-olds are enrolled in NC Pre-K. (3) Nationwide, less than one-third of all four-year-olds are enrolled in state preschool programs.
Types of Grants
There are two types of grants available.
- Development grants are for states with small or no state-funded preschool programs.
- Expansion grants are for states with larger state-funded preschool programs and/or a Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant.
North Carolina falls into the second category.
Congress appropriated $250 million in the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act for competitive grants to states to develop, enhance and expand high-quality preschool programs. States are required to submit a four-year plan. Depending on the availability of funds, states will receive continuation awards for years two, three and four. Of the amount appropriated, $80 million will be available for Development grants and $160 million will be available for Expansion grants.
North Carolina is eligible to receive up to $20 million for each of the four years. Funding must supplement, not supplant, existing state funding.
Applications must demonstrate how the state will increase access to high-quality preschool programs in high-need communities. Plans must demonstrate how the state will:
- Begin serving eligible children in Year One of the grant,
- Subgrant at least 95 percent of the funds awarded to implement and sustain, voluntary, high-quality preschool programs in two or more high-need communities, and
- Use no more than five percent for state-level infrastructure and quality improvements.
State applications will receive additional points for the following:
- Contributing matching funds. For fiscal year 2013-14, the North Carolina General Assembly appropriated $65 million of State General Funds and $75.5 million of lottery funds for NC Pre-k.
- Supporting a continuum of early learning and development from birth through third grade.
- Using at least half of the award to create new pre-k slots allowing more children to attend high-quality preschool programs. In North Carolina, 31,142 children attended NC Pre-k in 2012-13.(4)
For a breakdown of selection criteria and available points, see page 90 of the Notice Inviting Applications.
Where Are Pre-k Classrooms
The Preschool Development Grants rely on a mixed-delivery system. This is the model used in North Carolina. Children attend NC Pre-k in schools, licensed child care programs and Head Start programs.
Definition of High Quality
The grant requires:
- A teacher with a bachelor’s degree in early education or state-approved alternate pathway.
- High-quality professional development for all staff.
- A child-to-teacher ratio of no more than 10 to 1.
- Class size is limited to 20.
- The program is full-day.
- Children with disabilities are included and have access to full participation.
- Instruction is developmentally appropriate and culturally and linguistically responsive and uses an evidence-based curriculum.
- Learning environments are aligned with the State Early Learning and Development Standards.
- Individualized accommodations and supports are provided so all children can access and participate fully in learning activities.
- Instructional staff salaries are comparable to the salaries of local K-12 instructional staff.
- Program evaluation with continuous improvement.
- Onsite or accessible comprehensive services that promote families’ access to services that support their children’s learning and development.
- Evidence-based health and safety standards.
NC Pre-k is known nationally for its high quality. It is one of only five programs to meet the National Institute for Early Education Research’s (NIEER) 10 quality benchmarks.
The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services will jointly administer the Preschool Development Grants. A technical assistance workshop for the Expansion Grants is scheduled for August 26, 2014.
Preschool Development Grant Resources
- Grant Website, U.S. Department of Education
- U.S. Department of Education Fact Sheet
- 2014 Preschool Development Grants, Expansion Grants, Executive Summary