States that have strong community partnerships and substantial local support in the form of matching funding will have the competitive edge in winning a share of the Education Dept.’s
$240 million Race to the Top Preschool Development Grants, officials say.
ED and HHS officials offered tips on winning the funding in a cross-agency technical assistance webinar in the run up to the competition’s Oct. 14 deadline. The R2T grants (CFDA Number: 84.419) are part of a larger effort to offer pre-K to more 4-year-olds. Awards will be made in December. The competition looks to make awards in almost every state.
“The program is a critical piece of the president’s plan to boost access to high-quality preschool and support early learning for every child in America, beginning at birth and continuing through school entry,” says Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.
It has two categories: one for low-capacity or rural states with small or no state-funded preschool programs (Development Grants); and the other for high-capacity states with established programs or that have received Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants (Expansion Grants). For the Development Grants, ED will distribute $80 million for 16 awards ranging from $5 million-to-$20 million per year over four years. To be eligible, states must serve less than 10% of 4-year-olds and have not received an RTT-ELC grant. Up to 35% of the grant award may be used for state-level infrastructure and quality improvements.
For the Expansion Grants, $160 million will go for 36 awards ranging from $10 million to $35 million a year for four years. Eligibility: States currently serving 10% or more of 4-year-olds or have received an RTT-ELC grant. These grants will help states address fundamental needs including workforce development, quality improvement efforts and the scale-up of proven preschool models.
The competitive preference priorities are identical in both Development and Expansion Grant competitions, says Richard Gonzales, an HHS grants officer. The top Competitive Preference Priority is for non-federal matching funds, which may include state, local and philanthropic funds. States that commit to matching 50% of grant funds can win the maximum amount of points, which is ten points, and applicants that match less than 50% will receive points based on a sliding scale as seen on the slide. So, a state that commits to match between 40-49% of their grant funds, can receive up to eight points, a match of 30-39% allows for up to six points, Gonzales says.
The matching funds must be in addition to the state or local funds that would otherwise be available for improving preschool ed. Contributions may be cash or in-kind. Existing private-sector support may count towards the match so long as these funds are reallocated in support of the project for which the applicant seeks funding and the applicant can provide appropriate evidence of this commitment. Matching funds may come from either a single entity or multiple entities.
Volunteer services may count as an in-kind contribution under Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR). For LEAs and consortia of schools, unpaid services provided to a grantee or subgrantee by individuals will be valued at rates consistent with those ordinarily paid for similar work in the grantee’s or subgrantee’s organization. If the grantee or subgrantee does not have employees performing similar work, average market rates can be substituted. When an employer other than a grantee, subgrantee, or cost-type contractor furnishes free-of-charge the services of an employee in the employee’s normal line of work, the services will be valued at the employee’s regular rate of pay.
In order to count toward the matching requirement, funds or in-kind donations from non-federal sources, must be expended during the project period. However, an applicant may count existing non-federal support towards the required match as long as these funds are reallocated in support of the Preschool Development Grant. An applicant is not limited in the amount of in-kind donations it may count.
States can also earn up to 10 competitive preference points for supporting a birth through grade three continuum, by demonstrating how it will integrate high-quality preschool programs within a broader continuum of supports and interventions, Gonzales says. This must be done for a defined cohort of eligible children within each high-need community. To earn up to 10 points, the state must describe how it will foster partnerships and leverage resources from existing community agencies that provide early childhood services and how it will insure smooth transitions for children and families, Gonzales says.
In the third competitive preference priority, point allotment is different, Gonzales says. In the previous two priorities applicants could earn up to ten points. In this priority, an applicant may earn either 10 points or zero points, nothing in between, Gonzales says. Although, that sounds a bit daunting, this priority should be an easy one for most applicants if they follow the competition’s guidelines and include all the elements that are required, including a complete executive summary, as well as board, community, and local government buy-in, Gonzales says. The determination is based on how well a state demonstrates it will use at least 50% of its federal grant award to create new state preschool program slots, Gonzales says.