9 states win Race to the Top money for pre-K

Education Secretary Arne Duncan meets with People for the American Way Foundation's Young Elected Officials Network in Washington, D.C., on June 3, 2011.

Nine states will share $500 million in grant money designed to improve and expand pre-Kindergarten education, the White House announced today. The winners of the latest competition for “Race to the Top” funding are California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

Thirty-five states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico competed for about $50 million to $100 million each to help build statewide systems that improve child care, Head Start centers and preschools, The Associated Press reported.

According to the AP:

To win, states were asked to demonstrate a commitment to making 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 told Bloomberg Businessweek that the “best early learning programs boost student achievement and increase both high school and college graduation rates.”

Last year, Race to the Top awarded $4 billion in similar grants to states for initiatives in K-12 education, the AP reported.

Winning states cheered the announcement. “Today’s announcement demonstrates our place as a national leader in education reform and achievement,” Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said, according to the Boston Globe. “These resources will help us reach kids at an early age, before achievement gaps form, to ensure they are prepared for lifelong success in school and beyond.”

Losing states did not necessarily receive the news gracefully. Florida Gov. Rick Scott alleged that his state was rejected because it would not commit to continuing programs after the federal grant money ran out, the Palm Beach Post reported.

”When Florida’s application was submitted for the grant in October, we made it clear that we would not accept grant money with strings attached, additional state spending obligations or requirements that created new burdensome regulations on private providers,” Scott said. ”We stuck to our principles, and unfortunately our insistence against irresponsibly using one-time dollars for recurring government programs did not win the favor of the administration in Washington.”