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CLASS NOTES – Elevating Early Learners

California is one of nine states to receive federal Race To The Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) money. This much needed funding will support pre-k and other early learning programs. Of the 58 counties in California, Santa Clara County is one of the 16 that will share in the nearly 53 million dollars that we are expected to receive. The Department of Education, FIRST 5 California, Santa Clara County Office of Education, and local community partners worked closely to make sure Santa Clara County will be allocated funding.

So what does this mean for our pre-k kids? I posed this question to FIRST 5 Santa Clara County Chief Executive Officer Jolene Smith. While she was unable to relay how much money would be set aside for Santa Clara, she was very clear about how the grant money will be used. “I anticipate the grant helping in four major ways:

  • Raising the collective quality of early childhood education centers and family daycare homes across our county and the state.
  • Giving parents and caregivers information on what high-quality early education means for their child.
  • Building and supporting a professional workforce of effective early educators who have the skills and knowledge to create the highest quality learning environments for children.
  • Ensuring every child has access to developmental screenings and intervention services as early as possible.”

These are lofty goals and if they are attained, the pay off will be substantial. Investing in the future success of our children is financially smart as well as morally imperative. Children who participate in well-designed programs are more successful in later school, more competent socially and emotionally, and even show better physical development.


“Locally, there will be a strong emphasis on providing quality family support services to families with young children.” Smith said. “An example would include more families having access to Santa Clara’s developmental screening, assessment, and behavioral health treatment services.”

Many, including myself, have been critical of Obama’s Race To The Top competition. However, the Early Learning Challenge Program makes sense. Not withstanding the money, I think the positive impact and success of implementing these strategies partly lies in the participation of parents in their children’s education from a very early age. The sooner parents appreciate the importance of education and the key role they play in fostering a love of learning, the better.

According to Smith, “Childcare without enrichment and quality is tantamount to a boat without a rudder. You may not drown, but getting to shore – much like succeeding in school – is much harder. Conversely, every study on high-quality early learning has published the same results – better quality teachers, curriculum, and learning environment result in better outcomes in school, and ultimately, in life.”

Contact Margaret Lavin at


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