9 states win early learning grant, Missouri not among them

Friday, December 16, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nine states will share $500 million in grant money won in a high-profile competition intended to jump-start improvements in early childhood programs, the Obama administration announced Friday.

But Missouri isn't one of them.

California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington state will see funding for innovative efforts in often-overlooked pre-K schooling.

"Nothing is more important than getting our babies off to a good start," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Friday at the White House.

The money to aid the nation's youngest learners is part of the administration's cornerstone education initiative -- the "Race to the Top" grant competition. It has states competing for federal dollars to create programs intended to make schools more effective in exchange for education initiatives it favors. Last year, it handed out $4 billion in similar grants focused on K-12 education.

Missouri had applied for $60 million in funding this year. In 2010, the state applied for phase one of the program, known as Race to the Top, but did not receive a grant to fund an initiative to develop a model curriculum.

Kathy Thornburg, assistant commissioner for the Office of Early and Extended Learning for DESE, said in August if Missouri were to receive the grants this year, the state could continue work on its data assessment and find ways to allow more children from low-income families to attend high-quality early learning programs.

Missouri was at a disadvantage, though. Many other states can already prove they are making strides toward education reform, which the U.S. Department of Education wants to see when it decides which states will receive grant money.

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