Washington, DC --- U.S. Representative Heath Shuler today announced that North Carolina has been selected to receive a $69.9 million grant award from the prestigious Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge fund to support early childhood education throughout the state.
“This award is outstanding news for our children, families and educators across North Carolina,” said Rep. Shuler. “Investing in high-quality early education is one of the most important steps we can take to put our children on the path to success in school and in life. This funding will strengthen and improve access to early learning programs for students in our region and across North Carolina, and I applaud our state educational leaders for their commitment to ensuring every child has the opportunity to receive the best education possible.”
Throughout the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, 35 states developed plans to increase access to high-quality early education programs. North Carolina was one of only nine states to be selected for an award.
In November, Rep. Shuler and five other members of the North Carolina Congressional Delegation sent a letter to the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Health and Human Services in strong support of North Carolina’s grant application for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge.
The text of the letter is included below:
November 21, 2011
The Honorable Arne Duncan
United States Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C, 20202
The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
United States Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C, 20201
Dear Secretary Duncan and Secretary Sebelius,
The undersigned Members of the North Carolina Congressional delegation write in strong support of the State of North Carolina’s application for the Race to the Top –Early Learning Challenge grant.
North Carolina has always been a pioneer in creating model programs that support the development of young children, most notably SmartStart, NC Pre-Kindergarten (formerly More at Four), and the tiered childcare quality rating system (QRIS). Receiving grant money through the Race to the Top –Early Learning Challenge Grant will allow our state to continue focusing on these and a number of other statewide initiatives in order to improve outcomes for high-need children throughout the state.
In keeping with the absolute priority of the Race to the Top –Early Learning Challenge Grant, North Carolina will ensure kindergarten preparedness by focusing on capacity building and making sure infrastructure is in place to allow the effects of this grant to remain strong long after the grant period. To accomplish this goal, an integrated data system will be used to measure progress and direct funds to approaches that achieve the best outcomes. Furthermore, in understanding the impact of early childhood educators on the preparedness of students, the state will employ a number of strategies, including innovative educational opportunities and incentives, to strengthen the workforce.
As evidenced in the application, resources will be used to improve upon existing successes in North Carolina. For instance, North Carolina’s starred rating system, which serves as a national model, will be taken to the next level to enhance the early learning and development environment. Additionally, our state’s highly regarded Head Start model will be used to engage parents in the early learning process and will train educators on how to better partner with parents. To that end, North Carolina will take a holistic community approach to producing well-rounded students. This will be done through the development and implementation of a targeted Innovation Zone strategy throughout high-need counties in northeastern North Carolina.
Research clearly demonstrates the importance of quality learning and development experiences in providing conditions for success. For this reason, North Carolina continues to make early childhood education a top priority, as evidenced by the high numbers of kindergarten ready students throughout the state. This grant funding will allow the continued building on this strong foundation and make huge strides in achieving the best possible outcomes for young children through new initiatives and strategies.
We are confident that this proposal is poised to lead North Carolina toward transformational results as our state seeks to ensure that every young child in North Carolina is ready for success in school and in life.
We welcome the opportunity to meet with you to answer any questions or to discuss this matter further. We thank you for your leadership in improving early childhood education through the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Grant.
U.S. Representative Heath Shuler
U.S. Senator Kay Hagan
U.S. Representative G.K. Butterfield
U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre
U.S. Representative Melvin Watt
U.S. Representative Brad Miller