A top-notch educational system is critical not just for our children’s futures, but also for the future of our economy. Countries that out-educate us in the classroom today will out-compete us in the global economy tomorrow, and we can’t wait to invest in our students’ success. That’s why President Obama is taking steps to ensure our students get a world class education starting from their earliest years—steps like the recently announced Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, which will provide $500 million in state-level competitive grants to improve early learning and development programs.
Research shows that high-quality early learning programs improve children's health, development, cognitive ability, and even their chances of graduating from high school and college. High-quality programs also help close the wide school readiness gap between children with high needs and their peers.
Thirty-five states have already applied for the competitive grant program. To qualify for a piece of the funding, schools must show they are committed to improving their early learning programs and adopt common standards that define what children should know and be able to do.
President Obama also announced changes today to help improve the quality and accountability of Head Start, the federally funded early education program. Those programs that do not meet high standards will have to compete against others in their communities for federal funding, rather than receiving money automatically.