A happy crowd gathered at the Capitol Thursday morning to hear Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia formally announce Colorado’s award of nearly $30 million from the Race to the Top-Early Childhood Challenge program.

Anna Jo Haynes
Early childhood advocate Anna Jo Haynes

The grant was expected – the money came from an R2T “consolation” round –  but that didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm.

Hickenlooper called it “a good day for Colorado kids,” and Garcia said, “It is a great day for Colorado’s children.”

Anna Jo Haynes, a leading figure in early childhood education for decades, said, “What a morning it is after all these years of waiting. … This is going to provide the resources we need to take it [early childhood education] to the next level.”

Improvement of early childhood programs has been a top priority of the Hickenlooper administration, but progress toward that goal has been slowed by limited funding and some legislative setbacks.

Colorado will use the four-year grant – $29.9 million to be exact – to improve coordination of early childhood programs, strengthen the quality rating system for care centers, improve the training of early childhood teachers and create a uniform assessment of kindergarten readiness.

Four other states – Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin – also received grants from the U.S. Department of Education in the second round of the Early Learning Challenge.

Along with Colorado, they were runners up in last year’s competitive round. Colorado sought $60 million in that round. Only nine of 37 applicants won grants last year.

See this EdNews story for more details on Colorado’s round-two effort, including a link to the application and background on the state’s checkered history with all of its R2T applications.