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State nets $60 million for early learning

It was recently announced that Washington was selected as a winner in the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge federal grant program, meaning the state could see up to $60 million in federal funds over the next four years.

The program is aimed at trying to "ensure all children start school ready to succeed."

A total of 35 states, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, competed for the grant funding. Nine states were chosen to receive the funding to strengthen early learning and development programs.

Bette Hyde, director of the state Department of Early Learning, said this grant is a significant advantage to children.

"This incredible opportunity means that more than 73,000 children who start kindergarten in Washington each year will hit the ground running," Hyde said. "We were bold and ambitious in writing our application, and we will be equally ambitious as we use these funds to build the early learning system our children deserve."

According to the state, the grant funding will be used in three areas over the next four years:

• Expanding the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), which is used to assess a child's readiness for kindergarten. The states hopes to include all students by school year 2014-15.

• Taking to scale the states' quality rating and improvement system, which helps early learning programs improve the quality of care and education they provide to young children and provides information on quality to families

• Enhancing the state professional development system by offering awards and incentives to those who work with and care for young children

Gov. Chris Gregoire feels the awarding of this grant money is recognition that Washington State continues to be among the best at education.

"Washington is a leader in the nation and the federal administration gets that," the governor said. "Educating our young children is a passion for me and it's gratifying to see it pay off. With the incredible research happening at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, our nonprofit partner Thrive by Five Washington, and the New Frontiers Innovation partnership with Harvard University, we are making historic progress on helping every child get the start in life they need and deserve."

 

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