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Georgia misses out on Race To The Top funds

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ATLANTA — Georgia is not among the winners of the U.S. Department of Education’s grant competition for early learning programs, federal officials announced Friday.

The state, long considered a national leader in prekindergarten, did not make the list of nine recipients of $500 million in “Race to the Top” money.

Georgia was the first state to offer free pre-k to any 4-year-old, a program that is nearly two decades old. It is also one of the few states with a separate state department for early learning.

But in the last few years, the state has made cuts to the prekindergarten program and is far behind many states on creating a statewide system to rate the quality of preschools and daycares.

“The cuts have set Georgia back,” said Steve Barnett, a researcher with the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

Georgia scored a 189.8 on its application out of a possible 300 points. The state ranked 25th among the 37 applicants for the money.

Neighboring North Carolina scored highest with 269.9 points, winning $70 million.

The lowest score among the winning states was California with 243.6, and the state received $52.5 million.

Georgia could have won up to $70 million to move forward on 11 initiatives. Without the money, the state will have to focus on just six of those programs, said Bobby Cagle, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning.

The department was hoping to speed up the development of its rating system with scores for 2,100 day-care centers and preschools by the end of next year, but now the system will reach just 700 of those facilities in that time, he said.

The state will have to raise about $10 million privately to pay for the teacher bonuses included in the rating system, he said.

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