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State Dept. of Ed recommends passing on chance at $50M for pre-K education

Idaho's state Department of Education is recommendation the state abandon efforts to compete for up to $50 million in federal grant money to improve preschool education programs during the latest round of the “Race to the Top” contest, reports AP reporter Jessie Bonner. “We came to the conclusion we did not want to expand our current public education system with one-time funding,” department spokeswoman Melissa McGrath told the AP late Friday. One of the goals of the grant program was to help states that have traditionally not funded early education programs launch those efforts; Idaho is one of 12 states that doesn't fund pre-K education. Click below to read Bonner's full report.


Idaho not likely to compete for preschool money


By JESSIE L. BONNER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The state Department of Education has recommended Idaho abandon efforts to compete for up to $50 million in federal grant money to improve preschool education programs during the latest round of the “Race to the Top” contest.

Department spokeswoman Melissa McGrath said the decision was made after officials with the agency met Thursday with the state Department of Health and Welfare to discuss Idaho's application for the funds.

“We came to the conclusion we did not want to expand our current public education system with one-time funding,” McGrath said in an interview with The Associated Press late Friday.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter's office notified the U.S. Department of Education in July that the state intended to apply for the Early Learning Challenge. Idaho was among a handful of states that do not fund a statewide prekindergarten program but had still planned to compete for the money.

One of the goals of the grant program was to help states that have traditionally not funded early education programs launch those efforts. But among the top concerns for Idaho's Department of Education was that state lawmakers have not yet put a prekindergarten policy in place, McGrath said.
“We believe that's something that should be addressed before the state applies for up to $50 million for pre-K programs,” she said.

The governor's office and state Board of Education still have a say in whether Idaho pursues the money, but it's not likely given that public schools chief Tom Luna does not support Idaho's current application, McGrath said.

The U.S. Education Department announced the Early Learning Challenge in May. The program aims to do away with an uncoordinated system of preschool programs that often leave the poorest children without options and allow bad schools to go unchecked.

Education advocates said the federal focus on early learning is critical to making quality preschool and prekindergarten to all children. The program also represents the third round of the federal government's “Race to the Top” competition, which doled out nearly $4 billion to states last year.
Idaho was among states shut out during the first round of the grant competition.
___
Online:
Idaho State Department of Education: http://www.sde.idaho.gov/

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
  


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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