Washington State Should Make a Competitive Run in the Federal Preschool Grant Competition

 

Washington state will compete for funding in the federal government’s new preschool grant contest that would help develop its Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), and it’s positioned to make a competitive run.

 

In its application, Washington can highlight its strong record of investment in ECEAP, including that it’s in the middle of expanding ECEAP across the state. As part of that plan, the state Legislature invested in expanding and improving the program during the last legislative session.

 

Under the $250 million contest, states will compete for a developmental grant or an expansion grant. Because Washington already won a Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant and has a preschool program (ECEAP), it is eligible for the expansion category.

 

Supporters are optimistic about the state’s chances.

 
“I think we are in the top group of states,” said Joel Ryan, executive director of the Washington State Association of Head Start & ECEAP. “We have a very high-quality state pre-k program, and we have already made a commitment to serve all eligible children by 2018.”
 

Still, plenty of states have preschool programs and competition will be tough.

 
“This competition is going to be stiff, maybe even tougher than the Race to the Top competition,” said Amy Blondin, government and community relations manager for the Washington Department of Early Learning. “We have a lot of elements in place that would help us … we include our state pre-k program in Early Achievers (Washington’s quality rating and improvement system), we’re moving toward full-day services in ECEAP. And, we have some challenges.”
 

In the style of its other education contests, the Obama administration will move quickly. The application deadline is Oct. 14, and winners will be announced this December.
 
“If Washington chooses to apply I think they’ll be competitive,” said Laura Bornfreund, deputy director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C.
 

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