Maine is requesting a $32.2 million federal grant to improve the quality of and access to early childhood learning and development programs.
Maine was one of more than 30 states that expressed interest in the $500 million Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. The application deadline was Wednesday.
Maine's 164-page application, submitted by the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, says it would devote the resources to:
* updating early learning and development standards and aligning them with the Common Core elementary standards, which is already under way;
* strengthening and expanding the Quality for ME rating system for early care and education providers;
* working with higher education institutions to train early childhood educators;
* incorporating early care and education programs into the State Longitudinal Data System to analyze the impact of the programs on children's later educational achievement.
Much of the focus is on high-needs children, such as those raised in poverty or for whom English is a second language.
Investing in early childhood education pays dividends quickly -- for example, children who go through high-quality programs need fewer special education services once they start elementary school, said Sheryl Peavey, director of the Early Childhood Initiative at DHHS.
Expanding the State Longitudinal Data System would allow the state to analyze the effectiveness of early childhood programs.