WASHINGTON — Ohio is one of nine states that will split $500 million to help prepare youngsters for kindergarten in the latest federal Race to the Top competition, the White House said Friday.

The state, which requested $70 million, was notified early Friday that it had been tapped for an Early Learning Challenge Grant. The state will receive $69.99 million, according to Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office.

Thirty-five states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico applied for the money, and Ohio joined California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Washington in receiving grants.

The early learning grant program, which is jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, is aimed at increasing access to quality early childhood education programs targeted at children from low-income families.

“This is a huge win for the children of Ohio and it is a major step toward achieving the goal of having all students enter school ready to learn,” said Ohio’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner.

The state application was the product of a partnership that included the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and the Ohio Business Roundtable, and in-kind support from Battelle.

Currently, nearly 75 percent of disadvantaged children entering school in Ohio need additional instruction to be ready for kindergarten.

The early education grant program is the latest competition in the Race to the Top competition, which spurs states to compete for federal dollars to create innovative programs for schools.

During a conference call Friday afternoon announcing the award, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Ohio ranked fifth in terms of applications, and said the state had an impressive application.


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