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Friday, December 16, 2011 - 2:02am

No Early Learning Grant For Georgia

Updated: 2 years ago.
Georgia was once considered a national leader in early learning and was the first state to offer free prekindergarten to any 4-year-old who wanted to enroll. But in the last few years, the state has made cuts to the program. (Photo Courtesy of Barnaby Wasson via Flickr.)

Georgia will not get 70 million in federal grant dollars officials hoped to use to improve early childhood education. The state had hoped to win a portion of the latest federal Race to the Top funding focused on early learning, but was not among nine states chosen for the grants.

The state’s application had proposed 11 initiatives, including a new rating system for early childhood centers and incentives for centers to enroll more high-needs children.

Department of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Bobby Cagle says that some initiatives, like the rating system, will go forward. Other projects that depended on the grant money will be put on pause.

"Five out of the 11 will not go forward at this point in time," Cagle says. "That’s not to say that we won’t be able to pursue those at some point. It’s just a matter of finding the resources to do those."

The proposals on hold include a collaboration with the state Department of Education to develop new assessments to determine if children are ready for kindergarten.

Georgia has historically been considered a leader in increasing access to pre-kindergarten programs. But Cagle says the state was at a disadvantage because the application favored states that already have a childcare center rating system. Georgia just announced plans for the system this fall.

"So it’s pretty clear to me that it’s a peculiarity of the ways the priorities of the grant were set up," Cagle says. "And in particular, the issue of us not having a tiered quality rating and improvement system already set up was clearly to the detriment of the state of Georgia."

The only Southern state to win the grant, North Carolina, was among the first to set up a childcare center rating system.

In addition to North Carolina, California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington all took home shares of the federal grant.