Georgia Awarded Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge Funds

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“Increasing the percentage of Georgia students reading on grade level by the completion of third grade has been a top priority of my administration”
-Gov. Nathan Deal

“New early education initiatives made Georgia’s application stronger and more competitive”
-DECAL Commissioner Bobby Cagle

Georgia is one of six states awarded funding through the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), a $280 million state-level competitive grant administered by the U.S. Dept. of Education and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services to improve early learning and development. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced the winners this week. Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia also applied for the grant.

Gov. Nathan Deal designated Bright from the Start: Georgia Dept. of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) as the lead agency and applicant for the grant on behalf of the state.

“Increasing the percentage of Georgia students reading on grade level by the completion of third grade has been a top priority of my administration,” said Deal. “With this strategic investment in our state’s work, we will be able to ensure that more of our youngest students are positioned to meet this critical benchmark and thus improve our long-term economic competitiveness.”

“The collective work of citizens throughout our state over more than two decades has culminated in this amazing opportunity to further solidify and expand high quality early-learning opportunities for children and families,” said DECAL Commissioner Bobby Cagle. “With these funds, Georgia will invest heavily in expansion of Quality Rated (the state’s system for continuous quality improvement in programs), in investing in professional education and development opportunities for early childhood educators, in creating innovation zones for rapid improvements in targeted high-need communities, and in expanding our ability to use data to facilitate a better understanding of the state’s early education successes, challenges, and need for additional services. This is indeed an exciting chance for Georgia to build on past successes to expand the horizons for all of our children.”

Georgia was awarded $51.7 million to be used over a four-year period, the highest amount awarded among the six grants. The grant includes a variety of projects, all of which focus on improving services to Georgia’s children from birth to age five and their families. While DECAL will serve as the lead agency for the grant, the work will be accomplished through partnerships with other state and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations.

 “We are particularly proud of and excited about the collaborative partnerships on which much of our new application was built,” said Cagle. “The work proposed in the application demonstrates that the state of Georgia recognizes that providing high quality early childhood care and education will impact not just individual students and families but also the state’s future workforce and economy.”

Georgia Family Connection Partnership Executive Director Gaye Smith agrees. “If our children are to become successful, self-sufficient adults, they must have a healthy start and access to quality learning experiences,” she said. “I congratulate Bobby Cagle, Gov. Deal, and the state of Georgia. We are already strengthening the connection between agencies and systems that support our children in the first 2,000 days of their lives from birth to kindergarten. This grant is an investment in our children and the work we all do to improve the life of every child in Georgia.”

Read about all six states awared the Race-to-the-Top Early Learning Challenge grants.

Reg Griffin
Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning
Communications Director

Follow us on Twitter: @GADeptEarlyCare

Bill Valladares
GaFCP Communications Director
404-527-7394 (x114)

Follow us on Twitter: @gafcpnews

About Bright from the Start
Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning is responsible for meeting the child care and early education needs of Georgia’s children and their families. It administers the nationally recognized Georgia’s Pre-K Program, licenses child care centers and home-based child care, administers Georgia’s Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program, federal nutrition programs, and manages voluntary quality enhancement programs.

The department also houses the Head Start State Collaboration Office, distributes federal funding to enhance the quality and availability of child care, and works collaboratively with Georgia child care resource and referral agencies and organizations throughout the state to enhance early care and education. For more information, go to