December 7, 2012

DENVER ­— Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 — Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia announced today the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded Colorado a $29.9 million grant from the Race to the Top: Early Learning Challenge.

Colorado will receive the $29.9 million in federal funding over the next four years to help accelerate the state’s plans to improve school readiness. The grant money will increase access to high-quality early learning programs and help develop the capacity of those people, programs and places serving children with the highest needs.

“These Race to the Top funds will enhance Colorado’s commitment to early learning so even more children have the best chances for success in school and life,” Hickenlooper said. “Colorado is committed to helping ensure every child is ready for kindergarten and reading by the third grade. We are grateful to the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for awarding Colorado this grant.”

“This award affirms Colorado’s place at the forefront of early learning and development initiatives and supports our broad vision that all children are valued, healthy and thriving,” Garcia said. “Coloradans have a track-record of strong public-private partnerships that help solve the challenges many families face in accessing quality services for their children.”

The U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that all five eligible states – Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin – received funding as part of the second round of Race to the Top: Early Learning Challenge.

Grants support activities that enhance quality in early learning programs, align standards and coordinate disparate elements of early care and education to create a more unified and effective services with measurable outcomes. Colorado’s proposal includes strategies to:

  • Evolve the statewide tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) to help ensure children receive the highest quality programming in all licensed early learning settings.
  • Integrate early childhood learning and development guidelines – comprehensive guidelines tied to the Common Core – within all early learning system elements including workforce training, comprehensive assessments, quality programs, and parent information and tools.
  • Create a highly-qualified early childhood workforce through a competency based system that supports both formal and informal education opportunities and allows an evaluation of educator effectiveness, linked to Colorado’s K-12 system.
  • Expand the kindergarten entry assessment to help ensure Colorado’s children are on the right path to achievement at third grade and beyond.
  • Increase the effectiveness and efficiency of delivering early learning services to families at the local level by streamlining state governance with a new Office of Early Childhood in the Department of Human Services.


“We strengthened our ability to provide effective, high quality early learning through our collaboration with the Colorado Department of Human Services and the Colorado Department of Education. Additionally, we created the Office of Early Childhood to improve access and services for young children and their families,” Garcia said. “This state is drawing closer to the day when every child will be able to read proficiently by third grade.”

Last year, 35 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico applied for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, creating plans that increase access to high-quality programs for children from low-income families, and provide more children from birth to age 5 with a strong foundation needed to succeed in school and beyond. The Administration awarded nine grants in the first round.

Up to $133 million for the second round of Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge state grants was made available from a larger $550 million fund provided by Congress through the Department of Education’s fiscal year 2012 budget. Because of the limited funding available, the second round of the Early Learning Challenge was only open to the next five highest-scoring states in order to help build on the momentum from the 2011 competition. These five states were able to apply for up to 50 percent of their original request.

Colorado developed its Early Learning Challenge proposal with unprecedented engagement and openness. The complete application, including letters of support, can be found on the Colorado Early Childhood Information Clearinghouse website at