Cantwell Applauds Washington State Award of Education Grant of up to $60M

Race to the Top investment will help make sure more WA children start school ready to succeed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded a White House announcement that Washington state is among nine states receiving Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Fund grants to help invest in early childhood learning. Washington state is being awarded up to $60 million over the next four years to help the state continue to invest in quality early learning to make sure more children under the age of five start school ready to succeed.

The funding will help support statewide plans to increase access to quality early learning programs for children from low-income families. The awards will impact almost all early learning programs, including Head Start, public Pre-K, childcare, and private preschools. More than 73,000 children start kindergarten in Washington state each year.

“This investment will help create greater opportunity for children across Washington state,” Cantwell said. “This award is a reflection of the hard work of Washington state teachers and education leaders. Research shows that preparing children for kindergarten helps them achieve greater success down the road in school and life. We must invest in our educational system to ensure our future global competitiveness.”

In September, Cantwell urged the U.S. Secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services to award Washington state an Early Learning Challenge grant, sending a letter along with Sen. Patty Murray and other members of the state’s Congressional delegation. The full text of that letter is pasted below.

Cantwell has long supported early childhood learning. Cantwell has consistently supported investment in funding for Head Start, Early Head Start and the Child Care Development Block Grant. She has worked hard to expand and improve Head Start while providing loan forgiveness for its teachers. On average, 17,000 Washington families take advantage of Head Start services.

The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) competitive grant program is jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. For more information on the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, click here. To view Washington state’s application for RTT-ELC, click here.

September 29, 2011

Dear Secretary Duncan and Secretary Sebelius,

We are writing in strong support of the State of Washington’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RT3-ELC) application.

 As you know, Washington state is recognized as a national leader in early education reform and improvement. Since the creation of the Department of Early Learning in 2006, our students have consistently ranked above the national average on national measures of reading, mathematics and science achievement in early grades.  Nonetheless, Washington state recognizes that more needs to be done to close persistent achievement gaps and provide children with exceptional early education opportunities to ensure every child can receive a high-quality public education from birth through college.

Washington’s RT3-ELC application builds on our state’s proven commitment to early education reform by creating a ten-year Washington Early Learning Plan.  This plan was developed by countless stakeholders and experts across the state and will ensure early learning policy and funding decisions are implemented in a strategic and timely manner, with the overarching goal of building a statewide system that supports school readiness for all children. The application emphasizes three ambitious yet achievable goals: school readiness for all children, especially those with high needs; supporting high-quality programs and measuring results; and ensuring successful transitions to kindergarten for children and families.

Washington’s RT3-ELC application aims to accomplish these goals by building on recent reforms through the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) program, which is an innovative kindergarten transition model. WaKIDS will align the practices of early learning professionals and kindergarten teachers to support smooth transitions for all children. It will also help to inform decisions about policy and investments while encouraging families to become partners in their children’s education.

Additionally, our state is working toimprove quality and accountability measures in early learning settings through the implementation ofa pilot Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). Thrive by Five, Washington’s public-private partnership for early learning, conducted a two-year field test in five communities in Washington state to evaluate the model prior to its implementation.  In the next year, the state’s QRIS will include all 7,400 licensed child care programs and will align all key early learning programs and investments to drive QRIS participation.  We believe these important initiatives will not only serve as a powerful catalyst for dramatic change in Washington, but also will allow our state to continue to serve as a national model for high-quality, evidence-based early learning programs.

Throughout the state, we have seen parents, teachers, school leaders, support staff, policy makers and business leaders working together to make early education reforms a reality.  These existing partnerships demonstrate Washington’s strong dedication to implementing and sustaining these improvements for lasting gains. We strongly believe a RT3-ELC grant will help our state make critical progress towards closing the preparation gap, strengthening accountability and support for children, parents, and early learning professionals, and give us the data to help every child reach their highest potential.

We appreciate the leadership that you have shown to make this unprecedented opportunity available to states and respectfully request that you strongly consider Washington state’s application.


Senator Patty Murray 

Senator Maria Cantwell                                                                     

Congressman Norm Dicks

Congressman Jim McDermott

Congressman Adam Smith                                                                                      

Congressman Jay Inslee

Congressman Rick Larsen