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Governors Ask Congress to Keep Preschool Development Grants Alive in Budget

The nation's governors are asking Congress to keep Preschool Development Grants as part of the federal budget for fiscal 2016.

In their letter, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state and Republican Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama told four members of Congress that the grants are crucial to providing services for younger children, especially English-language learners and those with special needs, as well as for providing professional development for teachers.

The grants were included in a budget bill approved by Congress in early 2014, which gave President Barack Obama's administration $250 million to distribute to states, although Obama originally wanted $750 million in federal cash.

The program is part of a larger push by the Obama administration to direct more attention and resources to early education. The grants were separate from the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, and were targeted at enhancing programs for 4-year-olds. They could also be used to start new preschool programs.  

However, the House bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act cuts the Preschool Development Grants

"Governors understand that early childhood education is a key component of building a literate, knowledgeable and skilled 21st century workforce," Inslee and Bentley wrote to the four congressional representatives. "Preschool Development Grants, including expansion grants, enable governors to build on their efforts to promote school readiness by accelerating state-focused innovation to improve access and quality in early childhood education."

The letter is addressed to Sens. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., as well as Reps. Hal Rogers, R-Ky. and Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. Cochran and Mikulski are chairman and ranking member of the Senate appropriations committee, respectively, while Rogers and Lowey hold those positions on the House side. These lawmakers don't control negotiations over ESEA, which is an authorization bill, but they do control what makes it into budget bills. 

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