FRANKFORT, Ky.(KT) — The federal government has selected Kentucky for a nearly $36 million grant to support families and the state’s economy by ensuring more children are ready for kindergarten, it announced Thursday.
During Governor Andy Beshear’s weekly press conference, Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman said, “This dollar will support our families and the state’s economy by ensuring our children are ready for kindergarten. Our youngest students deserve the best start in school and in life; and this investment will make a difference to our children, but also improve our workforce, and our economy too.”
The US Office of Early Childhood Development, Preschool Development Birth through Five (PDG B-5) grant will provide Kentucky $11.9 million annually over a three-year period. It will build on a $10.6 million PDG B-5 grant to Kentucky in 2019. Since that initial award, Kentucky has advanced the goals outlined in the grant’s strategic plan.
Coleman, a former teacher and mother of a 2 year old, explains the importance of early childhood education.
“When a child enters kindergarten ready for school, there is an 82% chance that the child will have mastered the skills they need by age 11. If not, there’s only a 45% chance they’ll get the hang of it. That’s why, in addition to implementing this federal funding, our administration is also increasing funding for early childhood education.”
He said they were seeking $125.9 million from the General Assembly to fully fund an all-day kindergarten for all Kentucky children. “We do everything we can to ensure that we support our students, from pre-K through to higher education and entering the workforce.”
Coleman added the federal grant was a good step forward, “But it doesn’t live up to the universal pre-K promise for every four-year-old in Kentucky that the governor and I committed to in our First Education Plan.”
The governor’s plan also aims to address the loss of student learning caused by the pandemic and years of denial of raises that have contributed to nearly 11,000 public school teacher vacancies in the state, by providing funds for a 5% pay increase for school staff, pre- universal pre-C, textbooks, technology and training, teacher student loan forgiveness and social and mental health services.
Beshear also asked lawmakers to consider reinstating new teacher pensions, which he said was the single most effective measure that could be taken to retain new teachers in the classroom.