Vermont will receive nearly $37 million in federal money to support early childhood education.
Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., announced Thursday that Vermont is one of six states to share a $280 million federal Race-to-the-Top Early Learning Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
“Psychologists tell us that, in terms of human development, the most important years are birth through 4 years of age,” said Sanders, who serves on the Senate Education Committee.
“Yet, in terms of early childhood education,” Sanders added, “our nation does a very inadequate job in making quality prekindergarten education available to working families.”
He added, “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.”
Vermont will receive $36.9 million. Other states that will share the grant money include Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Calling it the “largest single investment in early childhood education in Vermont’s history,” Gov. Peter Shumlin celebrated news of the grant award Thursday.
“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,” Shumlin said. “It will mean more families will have access to high-quality early learning and development programs.”
According to Sanders, the four-year grant will allow the state to establish a system to serve every child in Vermont. It will invest in the professional development of teachers and promote improved health care for children and counseling for their parents, Sanders said.
During a conference call Thursday with the governors of the six states, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said his department, under the Obama administration, has awarded more than $1 billion in grants to 20 states — including the six announced Thursday — to promote early education of every 4-year-old from low- and medium-income households.
According to Duncan, early access to education will lead to a decline in the number of students in special education.
Also on the conference call was Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who said increasing access to early education is a global initiative.
She noted that China is looking to expand the number of children in preschool by 2020, as well the fact that nearly every 4-year-old in Japan is enrolled in preschool.
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