In the White House's most recent push to expand preschool options for low-income kids, 18 states were awarded $226 million in federal grants to boost early education efforts. Minnesota did not make the cut.
The state had applied for grants to expand early education efforts within the Northside Achievement Zone, St. Paul Promise Neighborhood, Itasca County and the White Earth Reservation. In 2011, those entities were awarded $45 million in federal Race to the Top grant money.
Minnesota's application for the preschool development grants also called for establishing two new "transformation zones" - one in southern Minnesota and one geared toward suburban communities.
States with either small or no state funded preschool program were eligible to receive development grants. States that have invested more money, or had received Race to the Top grants, were eligible for expansion grants. Minnesota had applied for that kind of grant.
Some of the big winners announced Wednesday at a White House Summit on Early Education include: New York, $24 million; Arizona, $20 million; Illinois, $20 million; and receiving $17.5 million was Alabama, Tennessee, and Virginia.
"Expanding access to high-quality preschool is critically important to ensure the success of our children in school and beyond," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "The states that have received new Preschool Development Grants will serve as models for expanding preschool to all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. These states are demonstrating a strong commitment to building and enhancing early learning systems, closing equity gaps and expanding opportunity so that more children in America can fulfill their greatest potential."
In Dayton's state of the state address last spring, the governor pledged to make sure every three and four-year-old child in Minnesota had access to high quality, affordable early education programs.
He has not revealed how he intends to fund such an effort, but just last week said that funding early education scholarships is one of his priorities for the upcoming session. Since the scholarships' inception in 2012, the state has funded them to the tune of $53 million.