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So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Federal education officials to fund preschool expansion

4 year-old Dante, preschool student in the Family Literacy program at Shenandoah Elementary school, doesn't want his program to close. Will preschool expansion grants announced August 13, 2014 by the Department of Education trickle down to LA Unified early education programs?
4 year-old Dante, preschool student in the Family Literacy program at Shenandoah Elementary school, doesn't want his program to close. Will preschool expansion grants announced August 13, 2014 by the Department of Education trickle down to LA Unified early education programs? Deepa Fernandes / KPCC

While it is significantly less than the $75 billion the White House wanted, the Department of Education Wednesday announced $250 million in preschool expansion grants for states.

States that already have robust preschool programs - including California, 33 other states and the District of Columbia DC -  will be eligible to apply for grants of between $5 million and $35 million over four years to strengthen and expand their programs. That'll make up about two-thirds of the spending.

The federal government is setting aside about a third of the money for the remaining 16 states to help them develop and institute statewide early education. 

"States will have to commit to stepping up and making their own investments in improving families' access to high-quality pre-K," said Laura Bornfreund, of the New America Foundation.

States will have to compete for the money, similar Race To the Top grants. Applicants who pledge to spend 50 percent or more of the funds on expanding preschool slots for low-income children would gain an edge. 

The grants can also be used to expand or improve infrastructure.

California's State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, expressed excitement at Wednesday's announcement. He told KPCC in a statement that California will be applying for the grant. "Every dollar we have to put toward high-quality preschool will help produce better-educated students and, in turn, narrow the achievement gap and lower the drop-out rate," he said.

Applications are due to the Department of Education by October 14 and awards will be announced in December, 2014. 

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