On December 6, Illinois was awarded a $34.8M Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to enhance its early childhood education infrastructure. Funds will allow Illinois to raise the bar on the caliber of learning that goes on in preschool classrooms, a move that benefits all Illinois children—especially at-risk children, who are poised to benefit most from an educational boost at the beginning of their academic careers. In three years’ time, education advocates to provide at least 65 percent of our at-risk children with a least one year of participation in a high-quality ECE program.

As part of the grant, $500K has been set aside for professional development for teachers pursuing the bilingual/ESL endorsements that will be required to teach in many classrooms with English-Language Learners (ELLs) starting in 2014, when Illinois bilingual pre-K mandate is set to be fully implemented. The Latino Policy Forum, through its involvement with the Illinois Early Learning Council, worked with Governor Quinn's office and council leadership to ensure that resources were available for this purpose. Professional development dollars are much needed; a study released by UC-Berkeley released this fall, 43 percent of preschool administrators cited “cost” as one of the biggest obstacles for teachers to pursue additional certifications.

Grant monies will also fund a website that will help Illinois parents understand local options for preschool, provide professional development and scholarships for ECE teachers, and enhance the way that preschool programs are able to recruit high-risk students and engage their families.

For more information: hosted.verticalresponse.com/1108939/84bfb94669/519474083/9f1d770392/

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