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California vying for federal Early Learning Challenge grant

California is among dozens of states vying to win millions of federal dollars to develop and improve learning programs for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, officials announced Thursday.

The $500-million Race to the Top/Early Learning Challenge attracted applications from 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

A focus of the initiative is improving educational outcomes for low-income children, dual-language learners and those with other special needs.

Early childhood experts from across the country will review the  applications. The highest-ranked applicants will be given grants ranging from $50 million to $100 million. The grant winners are to be announced in mid-December.

"By investing in our children’s early years, we can put them on track to success in school and in the 21st-century job market while boosting our long-term competitiveness as a nation,” Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. Her agency is collaborating with the federal Department of Education on the .

California is eligible for the largest grant because of the number of low-income children in the state.

The California application outlines a plan to create 16 regional consortia providers to implement the program.

"They will use the state's child development assessments and health screenings to inform parents and teachers about children's progress, to get children the extra help they need, particularly those with high needs — and to identify areas for improvement," Gov. Jerry Brown wrote in a letter accompanying the application.

"The consortia will operate under a process that will include all stakeholders, and they will commit to develop and mentor other local communities," Brown wrote.


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