On December 16, 2011 nine grant award winners were named in President Obama’s Early Learning Challenge competition. The nine states include: Massachusetts, California, Delaware, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and the state of Washington. Each winning state will receive at least $50 million to help reform their pre-kindergarten programs.
The Early Learning Challenge is part of President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/fact-sheet-race-top. For the national ELC, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services made $500 million available for pre-K funding. Thirty-five states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico applied for the grant by developing plans to improve the quality of early learning programs.
Seven of the winning states are governed by Democrats, but Education Secretary Arne Duncan says that the Education Department only graded applications for the funding based on the quality of the pre-K reform plans, with no regard for the political leanings of the states.
- White House announcement
- Full summary of grading results http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-earlylearningchallenge/awards.html
Massachusetts is eligible for $50 million under the ELC. Massachusetts also won funding in last year’s ELC competition, receiving $250 million to put towards early learning programs.
Massachusetts’ plan, From Birth to School Readiness: Massachusetts Early Learning Plan, 2012-2015, can be viewed here.
Key Elements of the Massachusetts Plan:
- Securing universal participation in the Massachusetts tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)
- Strengthening standards for birth to age five early learning, including creating English Language Development standards in early learning
- Creating the Massachusetts Early Learning and Development Assessment System (MELD) from birth to grade three. This involves expanding screening for children and developing a standardized assessment for kindergarten entry
- Increasing diverse and appropriate engagement with parents, families and community members regarding statewide education priorities
- Increasing the competency of early learning educators by working with higher education institutions and providing support for teachers
- Better alignment between early learning initiatives and K-3 programs
December 2011: Military Children and Families
The national unemployment rate for military veterans currently tops 12 percent. More than 1 million service members are expected to return home and to civilian jobs as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dwindle – but where are the jobs for military families?
In an effort to quell the rising unemployment rate among veterans, President Obama signed two tax credits as part of the American Jobs Act that encourage businesses to hire veterans. The “VOW to Hire Heroes Act” was signed on November 21, 2011. The federal government plans to hire 120,000 veterans, and the president challenges private sector employers to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014.
The Obama administration also launched a series of online tools including a job bank to help military families searching for employment. The National Resource Directory currently has over 500,000 job listings in the Veterans Job Bank.
Other tools include the following:
- My Next Move – A site created by the Department of Labor to help veterans find the best civilian careers that match their skills sets.
- The Veterans Gold Card – A card that allows veterans to access six months of personalized case management, assessments and counseling
- Milicruit – A virtual recruitment center connected military families to military friendly employers
- Military Spouse Employment Partnership – web recruitment and career partnership site for military spouses
According to the Washington Post, the unemployment rate among veterans has increased from 9.8 percent in August to 12.1 percent in October. Currently the veteran unemployment rate is more than three points above the civilian unemployment rate, and the unemployment rate among veterans has consistently outpaced the rate among civilians.
Additional Information and Resources:
- Joining Forces
- Company Commitments
- White House Blog
- NPR – Children of Military Families Feel the Strain
- National Military Family Association
- Military Child Education Coalition
Military Family Issues in Massachusetts:
- Massachusetts Veterans Guide to Benefits
- Home Base program at work in Massachusetts
- Wheelock Center of Excellence for Military Children and Families