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Early Childhood a Bipartisan Topic at Governors' Meeting


U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan described early-childhood expansion efforts as an inevitability, not merely an aspiration, during his Sunday presentation to a receptive group of governors gathered here for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

Part of Duncan's reasoning: a broad coalition of business leaders, law enforcement officials, parents and school officials are asking for these efforts; kindergarten-readiness assessments are showing that many children are far behind their peers when they start school; and, he said, there's a "enormous and persistent unmet need" for early-childhood programs. 

"This is a parade I think you all want to be in front of, not behind," Duncan told the members of the association's education and workforce committee. Many states and cities have indeed gotten that message, and are pushing ahead on early education.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, asked Duncan for details of the newest round of federal Race to the Top funding geared at supporting early education. Congress allocated $250 million for the program in the budget bill passed earlier this year, and has distributed about a billion dollars among 20 states in previous rounds. Nevada has applied twice for such funding, but its "Silver State Strong" proposal has not been among the winners. 

Duncan said the program will continue to "invest in states" along a "0-to-5 [age] continuum," but did not offer many specifics—perhaps because the Education Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services still are trying to nail down exactly what this new competition will look like.

The Education Department has said that this latest grant program will be "distinct" from what has come before, however.  Interested parties can leave comments for how this $250 million grant program should be structured, so be sure to get your thoughts in before the 5 p.m. ET Feb. 26 deadline. (Supporters of Montessori education have made their presence known, as you can see from the comments.)

Education and career training was also at the agenda of the three-day meeting, with Jeffrey M. Immelt, the chief executive officer of General Electric, addressing the state leaders on "training for tomorrow's jobs." 

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