Public Comment Sought for New Competition to Build, Develop and Expand High-Quality Preschool Programs

Posted February 26, 2014

Public Comment Section for the New Competition to Build, Develop and Expand High-Quality Preschool Programs Now Closed

Thank you to everyone who has submitted opinions, ideas, suggestions, and comments on this dedicated Web site pertaining to the new competition to build, develop and expand high-quality preschool programs.

We are no longer accepting input on our Web site for this blog post. We will be providing additional opportunities for public input in the near future.

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Thank you.


The FY14 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (Public Law 113-76) makes important education investments, including $250 million in new Race to the Top to States grants for improving early childhood care and education.

On February 4, 2014, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced on a call (Read the transcript, or listen to the call Audio icon) with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius that the Administration plans to use the $250 million for a major new competition to build, develop and expand high-quality preschool programs, working with local communities and with states across the country, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Note that this new Race to the Top competition is distinct from the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), an initiative that currently supports 20 states as they design and implement an integrated systems of high-quality early learning programs and services to increase the number and percentage of children from low-income families that enter kindergarten ready for success, from birth through age five.  This year’s Race to the Top funding will support President Obama’s call to provide high-quality preschool for all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families through a new competition to expand and enhance preschool programs across States and communities.

Specific competition requirements, priorities, and selection criteria will be developed consistent with the language in the FY 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (Public Law 113-76):

“Provided, That $250,000,000 shall be available through December 31, 2014 for awards to States, in accordance with the applicable requirements of section 14006 of division A of Public Law 111–5, as amended:

Provided further, That the Secretary, jointly with the Secretary of HHS, shall use all funds made available under the immediately preceding proviso to make competitive awards in accordance with such section 14006 to States for improving early childhood care and education, except that, notwithstanding sections 14006(a) and 14005(d)(6) of such division, such awards may be limited to activities that build the capacity within the State to develop, enhance, or expand high-quality preschool programs, including comprehensive services and family engagement, for preschool-aged children from families at or below 200 percent of the Federal poverty line:

Provided further, That each State may subgrant a portion of such grant funds to local educational agencies and other early learning providers (including but not limited to Head Start programs and licensed child care providers), or consortia thereof, for the implementation of high-quality preschool programs for children from families at or below 200 percent of the Federal poverty line:

Provided further, That subgrantees that are local educational agencies shall form strong partnerships with early learning providers and that subgrantees that are early learning providers shall form strong partnerships with local educational agencies, in order to carry out the requirements of the subgrant:

Provided further, That, notwithstanding the second proviso, up to 3 percent of such funds for improving early childhood care and education shall be available for technical assistance, evaluation, and other national activities related to such grants:

Provided further, That not later than 30 days prior to the announcement of a competition under such section 14006 pursuant to the requirements of this Act, the Secretary shall submit a report outlining the proposed competition and priorities to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate:

Provided further, That the Secretary shall administer State grants for improving early childhood care and education under such section jointly with the Secretary of HHS on such terms as such Secretaries set forth in an interagency agreement:”

The FY14 Appropriations Report states:

“The bill includes $250,000,000 for Race to the Top, which shall be available for obligation through December 31, 2014. Funds may be used for competitive awards to States to develop, enhance, or expand high-quality preschool programs and early childhood education programs for children from low- and moderate-income families, including children with disabilities.

If awards are made to States to build capacity related to high-quality preschool programs, the Secretary of Education shall award two types of grants to States, one to low-capacity States with small or no State-funded preschool programs and another to high-capacity States that have a larger State-funded preschool program.

Additionally, new bill language specifies that high-quality preschool programs should include comprehensive services and family engagement. As such, it is expected that funds will be used to help programs meet and sustain nationally recognized standards in those areas. Funds may also be used to help early childhood educators to attain higher credentials and degrees.

The bill does not provide authority for funding to be used for construction, renovation, modernization, or related activities. In addition, the bill permits States to determine the amount of funding distributed in subgrants to eligible entities for implementation of high-quality preschool programs from low- and moderate-income families.

A State receiving an award for this purpose shall ensure that any use of assessment conforms with the recommendations of the National Research Council’s reports on early childhood. The bill also requires that the Secretary submit a report outlining the proposed competition and priorities to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

It is expected that the Department will consult with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Committee on Education and Workforce, and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), prior to the submission of the required report, including on the criteria to be used under a competition to define a high-quality preschool infrastructure and program. In addition, the Secretary shall continue to provide, on a timely and periodic basis, the findings from evaluations, including impact evaluations and interim progress evaluations, of activities conducted using any Race to the Top funds to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.”

In addition, the FY14 Appropriations Report also provides that “Departments and agencies should be guided by the language and instructions set forth in Senate Report 113-71 accompanying the [Senate] bill, S. 1284, unless specifically addressed in this statement.”) The Senate Report 113-71 states:

“This program will award competitive grants to States to support their efforts to expand or create high-quality preschool systems for 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families, including children with disabilities. Preschool Development Grants will complement the administration’s Preschool for All proposal, which will provide matching mandatory funds to States for improving access to such high-quality preschool systems. The Department will award two types of grants, one to low-capacity States with small or no State-funded preschool programs and another to high-capacity States that have a larger State-funded preschool program. These grants will help States address fundamental needs including workforce development, quality improvement efforts, and the scale-up of proven preschool models. The bill allows States to subgrant funds to LEAs and to LEAs in partnership with other early learning providers. The Committee directs the Department to require any use of child assessments to conform to the recommendations and cautions of reports by the National Research Council on assessments of children.”

The two departments are very interested in your input. We encourage all interested parties to submit opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments pertaining to the new competition below.

This document will be posted for public input until 5:00 PM EDT on February 26, 2014, at which time the input section will be closed and we will begin considering comments received as we develop requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions. Once the initial input from the field is collected and reviewed, we will draft an executive summary and post for comments that will, in turn, inform the final NIA.  In order to run a rigorous competition and obligate funds to grantees before December 31, 2014, ED plans to waive rulemaking on this new program, pursuant to its authority in the General Education Provisions Act.

This is a moderated site.

That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. We intend to post all responsive submissions on a timely basis. We reserve the right not to post comments that are unrelated to this request, are inconsistent with ED’s Web site policies, are advertisements or endorsements, or are otherwise inappropriate. To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. For more information, please be sure to read the “comments policy” tab at the top of the Web page.

The fine print

Please understand that posts must be related to the new competition and program, and should be as specific as possible, and, as appropriate, supported by data and relevant research. Posts must be limited to 1,000 words. All opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments are considered informal input. ED and HHS will not respond to individual posts, and these posts may or may not be reflected in the policies and requirements of the program. If you include a link to additional information in your post, we urge you to ensure that the linked-to information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. Additionally, please do not include links to advertisements or endorsements; we will delete all such links before your comment is posted.

Again, thank you for your interest in this historic opportunity to support high-quality preschool. We look forward to hearing from you.

Department of Education’s linking policy

Department of Education’s disclaimer of endorsement


  1. The government needs to allow families to decide what care and education their children receive. Pre-school education needs to be decided by the parents and we do not need more government intrusion into our pre-school education. Government stay out.

  2. The Constitution leaves education up to the states, but the Federal Government has tried to take control through these grants. They always tie something to the money and states unfortunately usually take the carrot dangling in front of them that is Race to the Top.
    Federal Government has no place in education. This is basically doubling down on CHead Start which has been a huge failure.

  3. We already have Head-Start, television programming, free-days at the museums, free-internet learning programs, and, most of all, parents who can spend one-on-one time with their children easily teaching the alphabet, numbers, proper socialization, manners, etc.

    This is a government program meant to take over the private sector when the private sector is already thriving. This will mean higher taxes, more government waste, waiting for more education reform, etc.

    One-one-one interaction with a parent or sibling is far better for vocabulary than interacting with 13 other preschoolers on a daily basis.

    My children are my God-given responsibility. Mandatory preschool infringes on our liberties, removes children from valuable resources, increases taxes, and create more waste. Its time to give responsibility back to private citizens. THAT won’t cost the government a dime.

  4. I do not agree with any of this! This is Unconstitutional and an Education Reform that is Anti Christian, Anti American, and also Unconstitutional! We the people should have full control over our children and their education. The Federal and State Government needs to get out of our lives and mind their own business! Common Core is a United Nations education Reform that has gone Global! That makes this Unconstitutional. The Federal Government is demanding these changes in our school systems and in our laws. That is Unconstitutional! Us Parents should be responsible for having our children ready for school. NOT SOME STRANGER!! I am not comfortable with this! Take your hands off my children!!!! The Bible says that I AM the person who is to care and educate my child! NOT YOU!!!!! So, step off!

  5. Dear Sirs:
    Education should be controlled and managed ONLY by the county and State, never by the Federal Government or any of its agencies.
    Common Core, Race to the Top and the other so called curriculum’s of the future are totally against what should be happening. Education, so far has been an abysmal failure since the union’s and the Federal Government became involved. We continue to go down the failure path as long as these agencies insert their tentacles into areas they should not be involved in.
    Parents know what is best for their children, not the Federal Government, nor the State Government or County Government.
    Abolish the Federal Dept. of Education and return control of OUR CHILDREN to the PARENTS of the children. They don’t belong to you or the government.
    Anything the Federal Government touches, THEY SCREW UP. Need proof? Just look at everything the Fed’s touch, it’s a mess. We don’t want them or you controlling our kids in a similar manner and screwing them up as well. AGAIN, they don’t belong to you, so keep your hands off.

    A disgusted citizen.

  6. NO WAY!!! Children need time at home to be children!! And instituting mandatory preschool is only giving parents a free daycare. Parents are having their rights taken from them right under their noses!! No wonder this generation can not take responsibility for anything…the government is doingit all for them….they have a huge surprise coming!! Leave our children alone!

  7. America’s public schools have proven time and again that they are unable to produce adults who are able to reason and even minimally informed. Children do not need an extra year in that institution; they need to free and safe spaces to play, one-on-one time with parents and caregivers, and actual nourishing food, none of which are currently found in our schools. Studies have often shown that small children have the highest IQ’s if they’re allowed freedom to play rather than constant structured activity. Four-year-olds do not need to be cooped up in a preschool, and the government would do far better to allot the money to programs that help parents stay home with their children if they wish– or to just leave us alone entirely, but not to do this.

  8. It is long overdue but it is time again to put a halt to our government’s expansion plan which is way out of control. Our precious children are our greatest resource, but also our ONLY resource. A resource that will continue on after we are gone. I choose to preserve them, our posterity, our liberty and our future by telling the government to do as the constitution says “allow the states to oversee education.”
    WE THE PEOPLE decide….WE THE PEOPLE have the power……WE THE PEOPLE ask the government to stay out!

  9. My first question is, would it become mandatory to send my 4 year old to preschool?

    There is no need for further government intervention. We already have Head-Start which is very successful for low-income families. Forcing parents to send their child to preschool takes away from the valuable one on one interaction with an adult at home that is CRUCIAL to language and social development.

    It is incredibly easy to socialize our own children at the park, teach our children the ABC’s and numbers 1-30, and take them to museums. How is spending time in a classroom with 13 other 4 year olds going to help them develop vocabulary?

    This is just another scheme for government to take more control over the private sector when the private sector already has plenty of resources. We have television programming, free internet learning programs, free days at the museums, Head Start, etc. Having the government serve as the “middle man” only creates financial waste on already stretched pocketbooks.

  10. It will be a cold day in hell when the federal government gets their greedy paws on my children. Molon labe! Fed ed get the hell out. Parents need to be empowered, not victimized. Stop trying to control children and telling us how good it is for them. We see right through you.

  11. Go back to the ways of kindergarten before it became the new first grade. If kindergarten students are going to be held responsible for knowing certain objectives then preK should. be free to ALL 4 year olds. Some families make to much to qualify for free prek but do not make enough to pay for it. There are families that use over half of their paycheck for prek. The government should stay out of our families and schools. Let kids be kids. Do not burn them out on learning before they reach middle school.

  12. Finland’s schools are ranked tops internationally and Finnish children begin school at age 7. Please stop throwing money away. The federal government needs to stay out of education because authority for education rests with the states. It is unconstitutional for the federal government to authorize spending millions of dollars on education and it is unconscionable to do so when there is no way that this spending can be sustained. States need to model educational systems after Finland and finally get it right. Our children deserve better than a pile of debt with no evidence (based on past results of big spending) that there will be any improvement in education. Stop the insanity.

  13. Another waste of our taxpayer money. Headstart is a failure and this is too. This is the Government making sure that indoctrination and data mining begin at an even younger age. Intrusion, indoctrination, and millions more of taxpayer money being used for another government failure. Get out of our schools; education is a local decision, not a government decision. Homeschooling is the answer.

  14. The federal government has no place in our education. It’s bad enough that are politicians let them in our schools and refuse to listen to us. Those politicians will be fired in the next elections by the way. We need to stop all this bribery and corruption that’s taking place and take a stand. The answer is emphatically, no more federal influence here in our lives. Enough is enough.

  15. The word “mandatory” when it comes to my children frightens me. I want to be the one who chooses when and what to educate my children. I am not looking for another parent or a babysitter. I feel that I am not alone in this opinion.

  16. Can the federal government please get its useless hands OUT OF OUR CLASSROOMS. Dismantle the Federal Dept of Ed NOW. Give control back to the states & parents. No federal grant is worth the freedom lost.

  17. Preschools do not need federal help, oversight, or interference. I value freedom and liberty in education. I loved my daughter’s preschool, and if I ever send other kids to preschool, I would like them to be able to operate as they wish and for me to have the freedom to have the choice to choose a school that operates without your oversight.

    Preschools are fine and don’t need RTTI funds or any other federal funds.

  18. Small children belong at home with their families, not at “school” being “educated” by the government. The total lack of real progress in the Head Start program is proof that such programs have no affect on children later in life. It’s a waste of taxpayer money.

    The government needs to get out of the education business. This is not Constitutional.

  19. This government intrusion needs to stop. The children belong to the parents, not the federal government. The federal government can’t be trusted to do anything right.

  20. Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments and questions on the Preschool Development Grant Proposal. We appreciate your interest in hearing from the early care and education community and advocates on the ground, and for being open to considering our recommendations.
    These comments were developed by a group of agencies based in California that work on early childhood care and education issues at the local, state and federal levels. We are primarily based in Los Angeles County but will use a state-wide lens for purposes of these comments. Signatories will be noted at the bottom.

    Background on preschool system in California
    California’s subsidized preschool education system reflects a web of funding sources, including federal Head Start, state funded preschool, school district financed programs, and in L.A. County, Proposition 10 (tobacco tax dollars) funded Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP). Preschool programs are provided in licensed homes and centers, in schools, and through licensed exempt providers. Quality standards are not consistent, although efforts are underway, thanks to California’s Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant and other efforts, to synthesize and improve the quality rating and improvement systems currently in place.

    Despite significant preschool investments in California and the possibility of expanded early education access currently under consideration in the state legislature, the unmet need for high quality programs is great statewide and in Los Angeles County:

    • California has the largest number of children 0-5 of any state—close to 13 percent of the national total. In 2010, that number totaled 2.77 million children in California
    • Far too many of California’s children, especially young children at risk, lack early learning opportunities:
    o While nearly three quarters of preschool children with mothers with a bachelor’s degrees attend preschool, only 45 percent of preschool children whose mothers have less than high school diplomas attend.
    o Only 39 percent of Latino 3- and 4-year olds participate in a preschool program, compared to 57 percent of their white peers.
    This is particularly problematic because more than half of CA’s 0-5 population is Latino.
    o Only 15% of the children who could benefit most actually attend high-quality, center-based programs proven to deliver the strongest results.
    • In L.A. County, 20 percent of 4-year olds lack access to a preschool-suitable space. The shortage of child care space for children birth through 5 is deemed even more critical in urban cores and low-income areas, and especially for children not having English as their first language.
    This data underscores the great need our state faces with regard to expanding access and ensuring that preschool programs are of the highest quality.
    Turning to the Preschool Development Grant proposal, please see our questions and recommendations below:
    Question: What criteria will be utilized to differentiate high-capacity vs. low-capacity states? Even if a state is considered high-capacity, might that State opt to apply for quality enhancements in current preschool programs rather than expanding preschool spaces? Recommendation: Allow states the flexibility to select between developing new programs and enhancing those already in place–particularly for States like California, which has significant (albeit insufficient) investments in preschool but needs additional resources to reach quality goals.
    Question: Given that these will likely be one-time funds, will services be expected to last beyond the federal grant period? Recommendation: Meaningful investments to enhance quality and increase capacity require on-going investments. Every effort should be made by the Administration to sustain program dollars over a number of years, and if a State match is required, this match should be a slow, manageable ramp up. If States are expected to adopt all costs after federal funding dries up, this may be an impediment to Governors’ willingness to apply.

    Questions: How will the Administration define Comprehensive Services? Are comprehensive services and parent supports described in the draft proposal on par with Head Start’s family support system? While family supports provided by Head Start are excellent ways to help families overcome barriers and help children reach their full potential (including, under the Early Head Start system, voluntary home visiting, a proven strategy for building family strengths), we wonder if the cost of these services, given what will likely be a small grant amount relative to demand, will be sufficient to make an impact? Recommendation: Allow for State flexibility to invest in projects that do not necessarily require on-going funding, but that significantly improve quality. We recommend the following: workforce training, including helping providers obtain degrees and credentials; professional development training in the use of developmental screening tools; parent/family engagement, including culturally relevant practices and supporting dual language learners; training on nutrition and physical activity. These investments could make a lasting difference–even after funding ends.

    Question: Are preschoolers defined as 3- and 4- year olds for the purposes of this grant? Recommendation: Given that research shows that for many children more than one year of preschool can be a benefit, we urge you to include 3- as well as 4-year-olds in the definition of eligible children.

    Question: Are current Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants (RTT-ELC) states able to apply? Recommendation: Previous RTT-ELC winners should be deemed eligible to participate in the Preschool Development Grant competition. States like California that have benefited from RTT-ELC are in an ideal position to leverage the quality rating and improvement infrastructure that has been developed and to apply this learning to quality improvements required under this new grant.

    Question: If the Governor of any given State chooses not to apply, might alternative government agencies step in to submit an application? Recommendation: Allow for applicants other than the Governor’s office, including those with regional jurisdictions, such as county offices of education, to apply, as long as these applicants ensure children are served throughout the State.
    Thank you once again for the opportunity to submit comments. This submission reflects the views of the following agencies:
    First 5 LA, Children Now, Public Counsel, ZERO TO THREE, The L.A. Chamber of Commerce, LAUP, The Advancement Project, California Food Policy Advocates, Los Angeles County Office of Child Care/SIB/CEO

  21. Common Core and any further government involvment that superseeds parental control needs to be stopped. It is the parents job to raise their children, not the government. When parents are not caring (not able to provide food/shelter or are physically/mentally harming them with abuse then and only then should someone step in). Common Core is designed for more government control and to “dumb” down our students. Just look at what is supposed to be taught, it isn’t hard to find how ridiculous this all is. And any further required early childhood education will only burden the tax payers and break down family structure. Parents should play more a roll in their child’s life, not less!

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