Tag Archives: preschool development grant

What’s the Deal with Pre-K Funding in Maryland?

Earlier this month, U.S. Department of Education awarded Maryland a $15 million Preschool Development Grant. This award recognizes Maryland’s history of leadership in providing quality preschool for low-income students — but it could also increase the complexity and fragmentation of the state’s preschool funding landscape.

And Maryland’s pre-k funding structure is complex enough as it is. Unlike any other state, for the past twelve years Maryland has required districts to offer pre-k through the Bridge to Excellence Act (BTE), but it doesn’t have a dedicated pre-k funding stream to fund that requirement. Through BTE, the state completely revised its school finance structure and increased state aid to public schools by $1.3 billion over six years. In return, districts had to provide fullday kindergarten and at least half-day pre-k for students from families with income levels at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty guideline.

Because of the structure of the BTE formula, districts that had the most low-income kids to serve got the biggest funding increases. The new formula distributed 74 percent of the additional state aid inverse to local wealth, so less affluent districts received more aid than more affluent districts. Each school district received a base amount and additional funds based on the number of students who receive special education services, who have limited English proficiency, and who qualify for free- and reduced-price meals.

From the state perspective, the additional state aid should cover the cost of the pre-k requirement. From a district perspective, pre-k is an unfunded mandate: there’s no distinct, dedicated funding stream for pre-k, as exists in many other states. Maryland districts pay for pre-k out of their general state aid pot.

Fast forward to earlier this year. Maryland passed the Preschool Expansion Act, which created a completely different pre-k initiative. Preschool Expansion is a $4.3 million competitive grant program for children up to 300 percent of the federal poverty guideline. Now the federal Preschool Development Grant will fund another pre-k initiative for students up to 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline. That’s three different pre-k initiatives for three different, but overlapping, student populations.

To be sure, additional pre-k money is good news for Maryland students. And yet, Maryland students (and parents, and schools) deserve some reassurance that there’s a coherent strategy in place. Neither the Preschool Expansion Act nor the Preschool Development Grant directly supports the existing pre-k structure in Maryland. Instead, the state piled on two new initiatives right on top of BTE, which was already the third effort since 1980. The result is a fragmented array of pre-k funding options, none of which perfectly align in services, providers, or priorities.

Maryland isn’t alone in this complex pre-k funding system. Louisiana and New Jersey, also Preschool Development Grant winners, have at least three different, concurrently operating pre-k funding streams that tend to merge and separate over time. State policymakers often have political or pragmatic reasons to create multiple pre-k funding streams – but the result falls short of a cohesive strategy and instead leaves a confused pre-k landscape that is harder to navigate, harder to manage, and harder to sell.

Who’s Getting the New Preschool Development Grants Announced Today? And 5 Things to Keep an Eye On

This morning, at a White House summit on early childhood education, the Obama administration is announcing grants to 18 states in the Preschool Development Grants program, a $250 million grant program, created in the FY2014 appropriations legislation, that provides competitive funding to states to expand access or improve quality in preschool programs.  The Department of Health and Human Services is also announcing 234 preliminary awards, worth $500 million, to expand services to poor infants and toddlers through Early Head Start expansion and Head Start-childcare partnership grants.  The President and a coalition of funders also announced $330 million in new philanthropic and private funding commitments to support early childhood education initiatives, as well as the launch of a new organization, Invest in US, dedicated to building public awareness of the importance of early childhood and supporting community efforts to expand access to quality early learning.

In addition to the funding announcement, Secretaries Duncan and Burwell are releasing a joint policy statement on reducing and eliminating expulsion and suspension in early childhood programs, and the White House Council of Economic Advisers is releasing a report synthesizing the economic research on pre-k effectiveness and the economic impact of early childhood programs.

States receiving Preschool Development Grants include:

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What Will Gubernatorial Shifts Mean for Preschool Development Grants?

Last week’s election is sure to have implications for early childhood education. New America’s Abbie Lieberman has a good rundown here.

Given that the outlook for major legislative action on early childhood before 2016 was not exactly stellar before last Tuesday, the federal policy impact may be modest–although the likely budget and appropriations battles will certainly impact federally funded Head Start and childcare subsidy programs.

One interesting question is how shifts in gubernatorial control will impact the new federal Preschool Development Grants program. Of the 35 states that submitted Preschool Development Grant applications in late October, 25 had gubernatorial elections last Tuesday. Although incumbents retained their seats in 16 of those races, 9 of the states that applied for Preschool Development Grants will have new governors come January–who may not support the plans put forward by their predecessors. In four of those states, a newly elected governor will replace a term-limited governor of the same party (Democrats in Hawai’i and Rhode Island, Republicans in Arizona and Texas). In three states (Maryland, Arkansas, and Massachusetts), a newly elected Republican governor is replacing a term-limited Democrat. In Illinois, Republican Bruce Rauner defeated Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn, and in Pennsylvania Democrat  Tom Wolf beat incumbent Republican Tom Corbett. Given the relatively modest pool of funds and large number of states competing, the odds of winning a grant are not great. But if any of the states with a new governor wins a grant on December 10–particularly Maryland, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Illinois, or Pennsylvania–it’s worth watching to see how these governors-elect respond.

Obviously, the greatest impact is likely to be at the state and local level. While Hawaii defeated a pre-k ballot initiative on Tuesday (thanks, Hawaii State Teachers Union), local ballot initiatives on pre-k passed in both Denver and Seattle. Given that austerity is likely to prevail at the federal level for at least the next two years, and many states continue to face challenging fiscal situations, it won’t be surprising if more local jurisdictions continue to take matters into their own hands when it comes to expanding access to pre-k.