Families interested in applying for the new early learning scholarships can do so beginning Tuesday.

On Friday, the Minnesota Department of Education released the names of the 13 organizations that will be administering the grants, which add up to $40 million to be distributed statewide over the next biennium.

Up to $5,000 per scholarship will be awarded to about 8,000 children ages 3 to 5 in Minnesota. The scholarships will be accepted at any early childhood program participating in the Parent Aware Quality Rating System. Priority will be given to low-income students.

"The research is clear. The best economic investment the state of Minnesota can make is to provide its most vulnerable children with access to high-quality early childhood programs," said Art Rolnick, co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

About $21 million will be distributed in Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Scott, Ramsey and Washington Counties through the regional administrator, Think Small.

Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius praised legislator's decision to increase funding for the scholarships.

"At the same time, these funds only meet approximately nine percent of the need throughout Minnesota," she said. "I look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to continue expanding these scholarships, breaking down barriers of access to high quality programs.

For more information about the early learning scholarships and how to apply, go to the department's early learning website