education

Student debt: The cost of learning a trade

Feb 29, 2012
Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

America’s student loan debt is now bigger than its credit card debt. It’s about a trillion dollars. Student loan default rates are rising. While many families struggle to afford traditional colleges, a lot of student debt comes from attending private, for-profit schools that focus on vocational training. These students default on their loans twice as often as students from public colleges.

Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that allows students in Highland Park to transfer to another district or charter school now that the Highland Park district has run out of money. The Legislature approved the measure Thursday.

The Highland Park school district could not meet this week’s payroll, although at least some teachers still showed up for work.

The new law allows several hundred Highland Park students to make a mid-year transfer to another district or a charter school, paid for with a $4,000 state grant.

It’s not known how many students and their families could or would take the opportunity.

Highland Park schools were under the control of a state-appointed manager, but the manager had to step down after a judge ruled the review team that recommended a state takeover violated Michigan’s open meetings law.

It will be next week before the governor can re-appoint the emergency manager.

After that, the new law also allows the emergency manager to use the per-student stipend to pay another district or a charter school operator to hold classes in Highland Park schools.

user alkruse24 / Flickr

Lawmakers at the state Capitol have approved a proposal to make sure students from Highland Park schools are able to attend classes next week.

The school district is on the brink of immediate shutdown after the district’s state-appointed emergency manager was removed.

A circuit court judge ruled the district’s financial review team violated the Open Meetings Act and must begin its work over again.

Ari Adler is the spokesman for state House Speaker Jase Bolger. He said the emergency legislation is necessary to protect students.

“We’re trying to set this up so parents and students will have a choice; they will have some options of where they can continue their education for the school year. Speaker Bolger has drawn a clear line of distinction between the Highland Park district and the Highland Park students. We’re done trying to save the Highland Park school district, we don’t believe it can be saved, but we are trying to save the students,” said Adler.

Adler said a payless payday tomorrow appears to be a foregone conclusion for employees in the destitute district.

Republican leaders say they are not willing to forward more money to the district while the school board remains in control of its finances.

Democratic House Minority Leader Rick Hammel said the Republican plan to provide money for kids to attend other public or charter schools in the area will hurt the students of Highland Park.

Hammel thinks a local intermediate school district should be allowed to take over Highland Park schools until a more permanent solution is found.

"The number one thing is those kids stay in that school – that’s the number one thing for us," said Hammel. "Now, the devil’s in the details. And we have taken an opportunity to just fund Highland Park schools through a responsible source, and created law with lots of stuff that goes in there that doesn’t have anything to do with taking care of Highland Park.”

The Highland Park school board will meet tonight to decide its next move.

Once upon a time, universities were cloistered places, which deliberately shunned the down-and-dirty worlds of politics and the marketplace in favor of research, contemplation, and teaching.

That's never been totally the case in Michigan, however. What is now Michigan State was established for the explicit purpose of bringing "applied science" to the state's farmers and agricultural industry, back when that was the industry of Michigan.

user jdurham / morgueFile

A new report shows Michigan students over the past decade have fallen far behind their peers in other states when it comes to math and reading.

The "What Our Students Deserve" report by the nonprofit Education Trust-Midwest compares National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores in reading and math for fourth and eighth graders around the country.

According to the report, Michigan now ranks near the bottom in most subjects and grades.

Amber Arellano, executive director of Education Trust-Midwest, says Michigan students have been stuck in the same place for the past decade, while students in other states have been improving.

She says it's like a marathon, where She likens it to a marathon:

"We can see the other runners in this race, they’re all going much faster and much farther than our kids are."

Michigan's African American students ranked last in 4th grade reading among the 45 states reporting in 2011.

But Arellano says it’s not just low-income, urban or minority children who are struggling. White students in Michigan ranked 13th in the country for 4th grade math in 2003. Last year, they were 45th in the country.

Police officials are picking up kids who are not in school around the Detroit area today.

The Detroit Free Press reports Detroit Police are teaming up with local school officials and federal officials to make the sweeps

The program was initiated with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives by Detroit Police Officer Monica Evans, who was a teacher for 12 years. Detroit Public Schools officials are also participating. The effort stems from a U.S. Justice Department report that found many of the nation's prisoners listed truancy as their first offense. The task force has also organized patrols before and after classes at a number of Detroit schools to help students arrive and depart safely.

The Free Press reports the effort is part of "an ongoing collaborative effort by federal, state and local law enforcement to reduce crime by and against children."

They write the effort first started last year and "netted 63 truant students" during a sweep in April, 2011.

user mconnors / morgueFile

Another novel taught in the Plymouth-Canton school district is up for discussion this week.

Photo courtesy of the Snyder Administration

Gov. Rick Snyder is heading to Washington to talk about jobs. He's scheduled to testify Wednesday morning before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce on ways to promote job creation.

Snyder and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy have been invited to talk about what's happening in their states and offer policy recommendations.

In December, Snyder unveiled a new state website aimed at matching residents with jobs by offering workers and employers one-stop shopping for career planning, job openings and education and training.

He's expected to recommend Wednesday that the federal government allow more foreign students to remain in the country after they obtain degrees from American universities. President Barack Obama also wants to lift some visa caps so more high-skilled foreign workers can stay and work.

woodleywonderworks / Flickr

On Friday, Governor Snyder appointed an emergency manager to oversee the Highland Park School District. Emergency Managers are also in charge of Detroit Public Schools and the cities of Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor.

Highland Park and Detroit are in Southeast Michigan, but districts across the state are facing dire financial straits mainly because of declining student enrollment and cuts in state aid. Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley speaks with Michelle Herbon, a Senior Consultant at Public Sector Consultants, about the possibility of more emergency managers being appointed to financially struggling school districts across the states.

Update 12:56 p.m.

President Barack Obama was at the campus of the University of Michigan today, where he laid out his plan for how to make higher education more affordable.

"Shared responsibility" was a big theme in President Obama’s speech.

Mr. Obama called on states to make higher education funding a higher priority in their state; on Congress to extend tuition tax credits, and double the number of work study jobs available; on colleges and universities to do what they need to do to keep costs down.

"So from now on I’m telling Congress: We should steer federal campus-based aid to those colleges that keep tuition affordable, provide good value, serve their students well. We are putting colleges on notice.

You can't assume that you'll just jack up tuition every year. If you can't stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers each year will go down."

Mr. Obama also introduced a new, $1 billion Race to the Top competition to reward states that come up bigger, more systemic ways to reduce college costs:

"We're telling the states: If you can find new ways of bringing down the cost of college and make it easier for more students to graduate, we'll help you do it. We will give you additional federal support, if you are doing a good job of making sure that all of you aren’t loaded up with debt when you graduate from college."

The President also wants to create a "report card" of sorts for colleges and universities, so that parents and students better understand how a school is doing, how affordable it is, how well its students are going.

And while the roughly 4,000 students in the crowd cheered at Mr. Obama's overall college affordability proposal, not everyone is on board with it.

As Tamar Lewin from the New York Times reports, the President's proposal has "raised hackles in higher-education circles":

“When we hear things like a shift in federal aid, it causes our antennas to go straight up,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education. “Anything that smacks of price controls is of great concern on many levels, especially at a time when states are cutting their budgets — and if the effect of this is to limit tuition, what else would you call it but price controls?”

Ms. Broad said that she and university presidents across the nation shared the president’s commitment to affordable higher education, but that it was not so easy to keep tuition down at a time when institutions must also absorb state budget cuts, increase enrollment and bolster financial aid for the growing number of families who need it.

The President delivered his remarks to roughly 4,000 people, mostly students,  at the Al Glick Field House on U of M's campus.

9:20 a.m.

The stage is up, and the crowd is gathering to hear President Obama deliver remarks at 9:35 a.m. at the Al Glick Field House at the University of Michigan.

You can listen to his speech by clicking our "listen live" link above.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra is at the event and will bring us details of the event later today.

Mr. Obama's speech is part of a nationwide tour where he is adding details to plans he outlined in his State of the Union speech.

Today, standing in front of a sign that reads "An America Built to Last," Obama will talk about his ideas for keeping college education affordable.

This morning, the White House released a "blueprint" for his plan. We'll post more on those ideas soon.

Wednesday we heard from some teachers at Saline High School in Michigan about changes in education over the past year. Today, we’ll hear from two students at the school about how these changes have trickled down to them. Christine Houle and Aaron Mukergee are the co-founders of a student group called STRIVE.

They work on school reform issues. Aaron says their voice, as students, has been lost in the debate over changes in education.

Saline is an affluent district and its high quality schools are known to draw people to the community. But Christine says even in Saline, funding cuts are affecting students in very real ways.

In case you missed President Obama's speech in the Al Glick Field House at the University of Michigan this morning, you can listen to the full audio of the speech above (the introduction by UM student Christina Beckman is included in the audio).

Or you can watch the entire speech below:

*Note - we originally had video clips from FOX 2 News and CNN loaded here. Those have been taken down now that the full video of Obama's speech is available.

White House

In the last two decades, the cost of attending one year of college in a four-year institution has gone from an average of $7,602 in 1990-1991, to an average of $21,189 in 2009-2010.

And for Michigan's 15 public universities, tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates have more than doubled in the last ten years -

  • going from an average of $5,056 in 2001-2002
  • to an average of $10,551 in 2011-2012

The public universities in Michigan, as in many states, have been adjusting to big cuts in state funding.

In her "Open Letter to President Obama" last month, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman called Michigan "ground zero" for higher education funding cuts:

Governor Rick Snyder says he will decide no later than tomorrow whether to place an emergency manager in charge of the Highland Park public schools.

Snyder says he understands that parents are concerned about what could happen to the school district if it is taken over. But he says it’s important the school district is able to stay open to students for the rest of the year.

"Well the main answer on all of this is let’s make sure that kids can finish the school year because Highland Park got themselves in a situation where they couldn’t meet their payroll," Snyder said.

 Snyder’s office has received phone calls from about 100 concerned parents in Highland Park since a financial review panel determined there is a financial emergency in the district.

Detroit Public Schools is the only school district in the state currently run by an emergency manager.

The governor says he wants families to be assured that Highland Park students will be able to finish the school year.

Update 2:58 p.m.

We caught up with several folks waiting in line to get tickets to President Barack Obama's speech tomorrow. We asked them if there was anything in particular they wanted to hear the president talk about:

"I hope that they increase the Pell Grant, make it more affordable for people so that we’re not re-mortgaging our house over and over to pay for our kids’ to go to college."

         - Angela Lasiewick. Her daughter is a junior in high school.

"My concern is how we’re going to, what steps he’s going to take help us pay back these student loans. If they’re going to decrease insurance rates, if they’re going to make some sort of allowance for us to be able to live once we graduate with these large debts."

      - Ada Nwaneri has racked up $136,000 in student loans from undergrad, graduate, and law school.

"I want to hear specifically what he wants to do with the rising tuition costs...of debt forgiveness. And another issue I care about is what he's going to do with the banks as far as opening up lines of credit for the

     - Leo Esclamado is a graduate student in the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan.

"I was a little skeptical about attending, but I'm interested in hearing his message, what he has to say about the rising cost of higher education."

     - LaFleur Stephens is a graduate student in political science. She has about $30,000 in student loan debt.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama touched on college affordability, and put colleges and universities on notice when he said:

"If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.  Higher education can’t be a luxury -– it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford."

After Mr. Obama's speech, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said in a written statement she "could not agree more with the president that we, as a nation, must recommit ourselves to higher education that is accessible to all."

1:01 p.m.

There were just 3,000 tickets available.

They were free, but people did "pay" for them by waiting in a long line outside the Michigan Union Ticket Office, where the free tickets were given out starting at 9 a.m. this morning.

As the Detroit Free Press' Mike Brookbank reports, the first person to receive a ticket arrived last night:

Teman Evans didn’t intend to do it.

But the 32-year-old turned out to be the first in line at the University of Michigan’s Union Ticket Office.

By this morning, thousands were behind him in a line that snaked for blocks outside the Michigan Union on State Street.

“I got here at 7:30 last night and thought there’d be a whole crew waiting for a month and somehow I was the first one,” said Evans.

People who arrived at 6 a.m. this morning found a long line of people who had been waiting overnight. The line stretched down State Street, down E. William St., and then snaked around to the University of Michigan's Administration building.

Six hours later, 3,000 people had tickets to see President Obama's speech tomorrow at the University of Michigan's Al Glick Fieldhouse. The Fieldhouse is the University of Michigan's football practice facility.

Mr. Obama's stop in Ann Arbor is his second as President. He gave the commencement address in 2010.

This stop is one of many he is making across the country in the wake of his State of the Union speech. He's expected to talk about his ideas for keeping college education affordable.

The debate over the effectiveness of K-through-12 cyber schools is ramping up at the state Capitol.

A state House panel is considering a measure that would allow more "cyber schools" to operate in Michigan.          

There are currently two cyber schools authorized in Michigan.

Former state schools Superintendent Tom Watkins supports allowing more cyber schools to operate in the state. But he cautioned lawmakers to take careful consideration of how well individual schools are performing.  

“I would invoke an old Chinese saying; that once you open the window, all the flies can come in,” said Watkins.

Those opposed to more cyber schools in the state say not enough is known about their success rates.

Democratic state Representative Rudy Hobbs, playing on Watkins' flies metaphor, said he wants to make sure new cyber schools operating in the state meet high performance standards.

"Once we pass this, we open up the window. All the flies can come in; every single one of them," said Hobbs. "And then we have to try and figure out which ones are good, which ones are bad, get our fly-swatter out and kind of kill the ones that are bad. Why get the fly-swatter out? Let’s just make sure we let the good ones come in and be done with it."

Supporters of online learning say kids and parents should be afforded more education options and opportunities in the digital age. And they say wait-lists for cyber schools are long.

Republican state Representative Tom McMillin chairs the House Education Committee.

"Education is changing, and it’s changing rapidly. But if we don’t change, the world’s not waiting. And we can’t be stuck in some of the older ways of doing things and our kids are going to be left behind and our state is," said McMillin.

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants traditional public schools to incorporate more cyber-learning. But he has not called for more online-only schools.

It’s been a tough few years for teachers. Classes are bigger. Pay is down. Benefits cost more.

And, in the last year, teachers across the Midwest have been at the center of collective bargaining fights in Wisconsin and Ohio. With all that, we wanted to know what it’s like to be a teacher today. So, three generations assembled in Lila Howard’s classroom at Saline High School near Ann Arbor.

Howard is about to retire after years teaching AP Psychology. Jason Gumenick teaches government and is in the middle of his career. Then, there’s David Dolsen, a college freshman, who had both of the others as teachers.

UM GEO

Update 4:26 p.m.

Jennifer Dibbern, the former University of Michigan graduate student, spoke at a press conference this afternoon on U of M's north campus.

Dibbern worked as a graduate student research assistant while pursuing her doctoral degree in Materials Science and Engineering at the U of M.  She was also involved in the effort to form a union for research assistants.

Dibbern claims her advisor pulled Dibbern’s funding and kicked her out of the program because of her union activities:

"I think my story is one clear reason why we as research assistants need a union," says Dibbern. "I would really hope that me being able to come forward and talk with you all prevents this from happening to any other person, any other research assistant at this university."

There is an ongoing dispute over whether graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) have the right to organize. The U of M Board of Regents last May recognized RAs as public employees who have the right to vote to decide for themselves whether they want to form a union. That's in contrast to a 1981 decision by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC). GEO, the graduate employees union, is seeking to get that MERC ruling overturned. Trial hearing dates are set for Feb. 1-3, 2012.

Dibbern says she came to U of M because of its reputation as an excellent research institution, and she had hopes she'd get her doctorate degree. But she says because of the decision of her advisor, professor Rachel Goldman, she's no longer able to do that.

"My career path in the field that I’ve chosen and all the work that I’ve put into it has been lost; my career’s been ruined."

Rick Fitzgerald, a public relations official with the University of Michigan, was also at the press conference. He says Dibbern's case is "an academic matter" and by law can’t be discussed publicly. He says Dibbern’s claim that she was terminated is not true.

Dibbern claims she received positive feedback on her academic performance up until a few weeks before she was terminated.

Professor Rachel Goldman could not be reached for comment.

9:56 a.m.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - A University of Michigan graduate student claims she lost her job after supporting efforts to unionize graduate student research assistants.

The Detroit Free Press reports Wednesday that Jennifer Dibbern lost her research funding and was kicked out of her academic program. She tells the newspaper she wants to highlight a need to protect research assistants.

School spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in a statement that "we believe certain of the union's factual claims are unfounded." He said the issue is an academic matter that the school is prohibited from discussing publicly.

Dibbern's work was in the College of Engineering.

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission in August affirmed a 1981 decision that bars research assistants from banding together. There's an ongoing dispute about whether that should be
overturned.

A spokesman for Michigan’s charter schools does not expect a new law that took effect this month will translate into a surge in the number of charter schools in the state.   

This week, the application period started for groups wanting to open charter schools in the state. A new law which took effect January 1 doubled the number of charter schools allowed in Michigan.   

Dan Quisenberry is the president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies. Quisenberry believes there is room for growth, but he expects the number of charter schools will grow slowly over the next few years.  

“The new law will probably have more effect on fall 2013," said Quisenberry,  "And even then we wouldn’t expect some kind of dramatic change."  

The law Governor Snyder signed in December will eventually do away with the state cap on charter schools in Michigan. Critics complain increasing the number of charter schools will drain financial resources needed by existing public schools. 

The state of Michigan has been awarded federal grant money as part of a pilot food assistance program for K-12 students and their families. The program gives a monthly stipend to 10,000 low-income families with students in Grand Rapids and Saginaw Bay area schools once classes are done for the summer.

Howard Leikert, with the Michigan Department of Education, says the money can only be used for specific foods:

"There’s a food list that lists only the specific food that can be purchased,” said Leikert.

Leikert said the money can only be used to purchase healthy foods such as fresh produce and whole-grain bread. Leikert said it will be up to Congress to decide whether the program should be expanded nationwide after it receives a report on the success of the pilot in a couple years.

Some Republican state lawmakers are questioning whether each state university in Michigan needs its own board of trustees.

State Rep. Bill Rogers is sponsoring a proposal to evaluate the need for separate boards.  Rogers said  it's part of an effort to make college education less expensive and more efficient.

Mike Boulus, the executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, said  having separate boards allows universities to make quick decisions.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Lake Superior State University a few days ago issued its annual list of Banished Words and phrases for 2011.

Now Wayne State University has issued its own top 10 list of "remarkably useful and expressive words that deserve more chances to enrich our language."

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Beginning this month, law students at the University of Michgian will be able to sign up for a new Entrepreneurship Clinic. The clinic will focus on helping students do things like set up businesses, and protect intellectual property.

Law School Professor Dana Thompson will run the Entrepreneurship Clinic.

She said it makes sense to help the growing number of entrepreneurs at the university with their legal issues, such as employment law issues, developing contracts for their businesses, leases, and financing.

Thompson said the clinic will give law students a great opportunity to connect with business, engineering or other students, "and begin to make those connections with future clients or colleagues, and to do it while you're in school and everybody's kind of in that learning stage is a great opportunity for them."

Ten students will be part of the clinic's inaugural class, but the plan is to more than double the capacity.

The program attracted more than five times the number of applicants as there were spots available. Thompson says the interest reflects the fact that the employment landscape is changing, with a shift toward entrepreneurship.

Erik Hersman / Flickr

There may soon be more online schools allowed to operate in Michigan.

Republican leaders in the Legislature say they want to allow more so-called cyber schools for K-through-12.

State Representative Tom McMillin chairs the House Education Committee. He says many lawmakers are impressed with the ability of cyber schools to help kids who struggle in traditional public schools, or drop out.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court plans to hear a case over whether the state-appointed emergency manager for the Detroit Public Schools should be removed from office.

The court announced in an order Wednesday it would hear the case brought by Robert Davis, which was rejected by the state Court of Appeals. It says oral arguments are planned and briefs from those
involved are due within 42 days.

Davis argues that the office of emergency manager should be declared vacant because Roy Roberts didn't immediately take the oath of office earlier this year.

Roberts later took the oath.

The district said in a statement that Roberts "continues to work on the hard daily tasks of strengthening educational opportunities for Detroit students and righting Detroit Public Schools finances."

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan schools superintendent Mike Flanagan says a review of the Benton Harbor schools finds evidence of "probable financial stress." But Flanagan is not recommending a deeper, 60-day review. He says that’s because the district has taken “several steps in recent days to correct the deficit including:”

Toledo, Ohio is just across Michigan’s southern border, but as far as policy makers in our state are concerned, it might as well be another country. In fact, virtually nobody in Michigan pays much attention to anything going on in Toledo, which is unfortunate.

That’s because in many ways, Toledo, a city of about 300,000 people, is more like Michigan than like the rest of Ohio. It has a blue-collar economy that has long mirrored Detroit’s.The Motor City made cars;Toledo made Jeeps and auto parts.

user brother o'mara

Saab files for bankruptcy

Saab Automobile filed for bankruptcy in Sweden this morning. The announcement came after officials from General Motors rejected support for a proposal designed to save the company.

From a Saab press release:

After having received the recent position of GM on the contemplated transaction with Saab Automobile, Youngman informed Saab Automobile that the funding to continue and complete the reorganization of Saab Automobile could not be concluded. The Board of Saab Automobile subsequently decided that the company without further funding will be insolvent and that filing bankruptcy is in the best interests of its creditors.

Benton Harbor schools working to avoid an emergency manager

The Benton Harbor Area Schools are one of several entities in line for a possible state takeover by an emergency manager. State officials are expected to release findings of a preliminary review of the school system's finances this week.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported on the cuts Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Leonard Seawood, and members of the school board are proposing in hopes of avoiding a state-takeover:

He and the school board have agreed to close 2 schools and lay off 20 employees. Teachers have agreed to work for less money as the district and the union renegotiates a contract with concessions. Seawood is looking to get a 10-percent pay cut for teachers and increase their health care contributions to 20-percent.

The board agreed to demolish some old buildings and list others for sale. BHAS had already privatized bus drivers, custodians, grounds and maintenance and food service.

Protests at Lowe's in wake of "All-American Muslim" controversy

After Lowe's pulled its ad from TLC's reality show "All-American Muslim," protesters picketed outside a Lowe's store near Detroit this past Saturday.

From the Associated Press:

About 100 people gathered outside the store in Allen Park, a Detroit suburb adjacent to the city where "All-American Muslim" is filmed. Lowe's said this week that the TLC show had become a "lightning rod" for complaints, following an email campaign by a conservative Christian group.

Protesters including Christian clergy and lawmakers called for unity and held signs that read "Boycott Bigotry" and chanted "God Bless America, shame on Lowe's" during the rally, which was organized by a coalition of Christian, Muslim and civil rights groups.

Lowe's pulled the ads after it received pressure from the Florida Family Association. In a letter to advertisers, the group said the show was "attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad."

There are a number of important debates going on in Michigan about our economic crisis, and our future.

Three of the most intense are these: 

  1. Should Detroit have an Emergency Manager?
  2. Should the Emergency Manager law itself be repealed? 
  3. And what’s the future of public education in this state, and how should we pay for it?

Virtually everyone has opinions about these issues, and I have expressed mine, on Michigan Radio and elsewhere. But it occurs to me that we may all be missing something.

user alkruse24 / Flickr

Update 1:10 p.m.

The official announcement was made this morning. From a U.S. Department of Education press release:

Today, the White House announced that nine states—California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington—will receive grant awards from the $500 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge fund...

"In a matter of months, early education and child development experts throughout the country, together with state and local leaders, worked to build comprehensive plans for expanding access to high-quality early learning," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "All applicants showed tremendous dedication and drive to build stronger foundations and create greater opportunities for more children. Their work will help lead the way in ensuring excellent early learning and support for every child."

12:44 p.m.

From the AP:

The Associated Press has learned that nine states will share $500 million in grant money to improve their early childhood programs.

An administration official says the winners to be announced Friday at the White House are California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the winners had not been announced.

The competition is part of the Obama administration's cornerstone education initiative called "Race to the Top." It has states competing for federal education dollars in exchange for changes it favors. Last year, it handed out $4 billion in such grants focused on K-12 education.

The goal of the early learning competition was to get more children from birth to age 5 ready for kindergarten.

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