New federal funds likely to target early childhood education

May 9, 2011

Michigan and other states may soon compete against one another to try to win a new round of grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

Congress allotted another $700 million to Race to the Top, the education reform program where states compete for federal grants.

It’s not clear just yet how the money will be used, but some analysts say it’s likely the money will go toward improving early education.  John Austin is president of the Michigan Board of Education. He says "early childhood education expansion of pre-K to all interested is a fantastic investment."

Austin says he hopes Michigan throws its hat into the ring for the money:

"Every study we’ve seen says you invest a dollar in early learning,  it saves significant dollars down the road in public expenditures you don’t make for dropouts, for those who find their way into the social safety net. So it’s one of the best investments we can make."

It would cost about $300 million to expand pre-K and kindergarten access to all children in Michigan, says Austin. 

So far, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded 13 states and the District of Columbia Race to the Top funds. Michigan has yet to win any Race to the Top money.