Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children
Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

This summer federal officials announced that states could apply for preschool development grants: a $250 million federal program that will help “states to build, develop, and expand voluntary, high-quality preschool programs for children from low- and moderate-income families.”

Now an impressive 32 states (as of Monday) have declared their interest in the program, which is being jointly run by the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services.

“These grants would lay the groundwork to ensure that more states are ready to participate in the Preschool for All formula grant initiative proposed by the Administration,” according to the Department of Education.

Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, and New Hampshire are among the nine states applying for the program’s “development grants,” funding for states with little or no public preschool infrastructure.

Massachusetts, along with California, Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington are among the 23 states applying for “expansion grants” that could help them build and enhance existing programs.

“Massachusetts will be applying and is excited about the opportunity to build on the strong foundation already established by our early education and care field,” Tom Weber, commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care said yesterday. “This grant opportunity would allow more children and families to access high-quality preschool programming and further strengthen our system.”

As Education Week explains: “The ‘intent to apply’ notices aren’t a prerequisite for an application, which are officially due October 14, but they give the administration some sense of who is interested and who isn’t.

“The upshot? States and districts may be weary of competitive grants, but the early childhood education money seems to be garnering a lot of interest.”

In Texas, the KVUE Network quotes Commissioner of Education Michael Williams as saying, “One way to begin closing the achievement gap in Texas is to better prepare children who are entering our public schools.”

Williams adds: “With many high-quality pre-K programs already established in our communities, this federal grant opportunity allows an avenue to enhance and build upon that success.”

As U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said on his Facebook page, “Through the Preschool Development Grants program, we continue our efforts to create educational opportunities that prepare our youngest students for success in kindergarten, through elementary school, and beyond.”

We look forward to seeing how states get this promising work done.