In 2011, Congress called for proposals for the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) Grant. The purpose of the RTT-ELC Grant was to improve the quality of early learning programs for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, as well as increase the number of low-income and disadvantaged children enrolled in these programs. Four years later, the results of the $1 billion federal investment are in and have demonstrated positive impacts on children and families living in Early Learning Challenge states. During visits to two Early Learning Challenge states, Secretary John King shared that states that leveraged the RTT-ELC Grant opportunity doubled the number of highly rated programs in their states. This means that more children are receiving high quality early childhood education and care than ever before.
Although New York was not an Early Learning Challenge state, it has implemented a number of initiatives with the same goals in mind to increase the access to and quality of early childhood education across the state. The New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute, in partnership with the Governor’s Early Childhood Advisory Council, has implemented the state’s quality rating and improvement system, QUALITYstarsNY, which continues to grow and expand. The first study of the program’s impact earlier this year showed that 84% of participating programs improved their quality scores and the number of highly rated programs increased by two-thirds.
New York has also received federal funding through the Preschool Expansion Grant, increasing the access of young children to high quality pre-K programs in communities around the state. Preschool opportunities for three-year-olds are also being expanded across the state, and New York City continues to support young children through its Pre-K for All and EarlyLearn programs. New York’s youngest residents and their families, especially those in poor and under-resourced communities, deserve nothing less.