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Eighteen States Win $250 Million in Preschool Development Grants

UPDATED

Half of the 36 states that applied for federal money to launch or expand preschool programs have been awarded a total of $250 million in an early-childhood initiative jointly administered by the the U.S. departments of Education and Health and Human Serivces.

The announcement comes as part of a series of events Wednesday at the White House designed to drum up support for early learning. That will also include awards of $500 million from HHS to support partnerships between child-care centers and Early Head Start providers; and a commitment of more than $300 million from private groups to increase their philanthropy in the early-learning arena. 

UPDATE: In a Wednesday press conference, President Barack Obama lauded the philanthropic efforts that have been brought together under the umbrella of the new initiative called "Invest in US." 

They include a $10 million commitment from foundations, schools, and businesses in Ohio's Cuyahoga County, which includes the city of Cleveland, and a $15 million investment from Susan A. Buffett and Partners to expand services in Omaha, Neb.

"I'm calling on all Americans across the country to make their own commitments to children," Obama said.

The $250 million comes from the Preschool Development Grant program, which was funded as part of a budget deal agreed to in January. Five states—Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Montana and Nevada—are receiving grants worth from $2 million to $20 million under a part of the program designated for state programs just getting off the ground. Those states have 10 percent or fewer of their students enrolled in state-funded preschool. 

The remaining grant money is going to states that already serve 10 percent or more of their 4-year-olds. Six of those states are previous winners of Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants: Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Seven winners have not previously received federal funding for preschool: Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia. The grants for those states range from $2 million to nearly $25 million.

The Education Department estimates that because of the grant program, more than 33,000 additional children will be served in preschool programs that meet high-quality standards in the first year of the program.

In a press call announcing the results, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan noted the interest in the preschool money from states that have Republican and Democratic leaders, (though the application process did expose testy political divides in some states).

"What still haunts me is the huge unmet need in state after state after state," Duncan said. "While we're thrilled with the support from governors, we really need Congress to step up in a bipartisan way." 

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