Selection Process Underway for Early Education Empowerment Zones

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Four Regions Will receive over $1-million in Early Childhood Education Resources

ATLANTA, Ga.—Site visits and interviews are underway this summer to help determine the location of four Early Education Empowerment Zones, or E³Zs. Funding for the initiative is part of the $51.7 million Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant Bright from the Start: Georgia Dept. of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) received last year from the U.S. Dept. of Education and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Early Education Empowerment Zones, as defined in the state’s grant will be multi-county regions of the state that are home to around 10,000 children under the age of five. Each Early Education Empowerment Zone will receive over $1-million in targeted resources to improve early childhood outcomes in the region.

Kristin Bernhard, deputy commissioner for System Reform, said DECAL first used quantitative data from the Dept. of Public Health, Dept. of Economic Development, the Department of Community Affairs, and the Dept. of Education to identify eleven geographic regions of the state with challenging circumstances for children.

“We will ultimately decide the final locations considering both quantitative data and qualitative data,” Bernhard said. “First, we looked at indicators like third grade reading proficiency, poverty level, premature birth rates, the percentage of licensed childcare capacity filled by children receiving subsidy, Pre-K saturation, and other factors to determine regions of high need.”

Bernhard said now DECAL will conduct site visits to each of the potential zones to examine qualitative data to narrow down the list of eleven potential zones to the final four. Communities could improve their chances of becoming E³Zs by having strong Quality Rated child care programs in or nearby, universities or technical colleges with strong programs in early childhood education, and demonstrating support from public school superintendents, elected officials, the business community, and nonprofit and philanthropic partners.

Community visits were held in June for the Statesboro area. This month the team will visit the regions around Albany, Macon, Sandersville, Dalton, and Valdosta, with the remaining potential zones on the calendar in August. DECAL hopes to have the four zones selected early this fall.

Gov. Nathan Deal designated DECAL as the lead agency for the Early Learning Challenge Grant on behalf of the state. Georgia’s Early Learning Challenge grant will be implemented over a four-year period. Georgia’s grant includes a variety of projects, all of which focus on improving services to Georgia’s children from birth to age eight and their families. While DECAL is the lead agency for the grant, the work will be accomplished through partnerships with other state and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations.

Reg Griffin
DECAL Communications Director

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

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