This week, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released their proposal for funding five states that narrowly missed winning the 2011 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge. Under the proposal, those states -- Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin -- could receive up to 50 percent of what they were eligible to win in the original competition. They are also encouraged to apply as “consortia” in partnership with each other and/or with last year’s winners.
The proposed guidelines emphasize the importance of states’ Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS), public rating systems that give parents information about the levels of quality at child care and pre-K programs in their geographic area. How states plan to develop and improve their QRIS could play a big role in their success in this RTT-ELC round.
The fact that grants will only be half as big as last year’s is no surprise, given that this year’s Early Learning Challenge program is operating with a smaller pool of money. When it approved the fiscal year 2012 budget, Congress reserved $550 million for the full Race to the Top Program, with the RTT-ELC getting a $133 million slice. In 2011, $500 million in grants were awarded to nine states: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.
To accommodate the smaller grants, the federal agencies said that applicants “may make adjustments to the scope of activities,” but must “maintain commitments” that they laid out in their 2011 applications. As we’ve asked before, what will states be able to accomplish with half the money? What might an application from a consortia of states look like? Comments are due July 20, 2012 and can be submitted through www.regulations.gov.
See our special page on the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge for previous posts and continous coverage of RTT-ELC.