Last week Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education awarded 16 competitive planning grants, up to $10,000 each, to public school districts to explore the development of blending child care and quality early learning programs in their communities.
The Blended Early Learning in Educational Foundations (BELIEF) grants will support school districts working with community partners in developing plans to start evidence-based, customized early child care and preschool programs for children under the age of five. The grants can be used to cover costs associated with training and planning, such as travel expenses, communication and outreach services, transportation costs associated with multiple service locations as well as the cost of substitute teachers, so team members can attend training and planning sessions.
“Introducing our children to innovative early learning opportunities will better prepare them for the transition to school while providing the support their parents need to enter and remain in the workforce,” said Gov. Reynolds. “Expanding child care access and quality is one of my top priorities and I commend these school districts for working together with the private sector to pursue it in their communities.”
The 16 districts awarded a one-time BELIEF grant include:
- Centerville Community School District
- College Community School District
- Davenport Community School District
- Dubuque Community School District
- Essex Community School District
- Fort Madison Community School District
- GMG Community School District
- Hamburg Community School District
- Keokuk Community School District
- Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn Community School District
- Pleasantville Community School District
- Prairie City Monroe Community School District
- Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock Community School District
- Shenandoah Community School District
- Union Community School District
- Woodbine Community School District
“High-quality child care and preschool programs help our youngest learners develop learning and social-emotional competencies that prepare them for success as they continue in school,” said Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education. “I commend these schools and their community partners for working together to grow and strengthen blended child care and early learning opportunities to support the needs of Iowa families.”
The BELIEF grants are supported by the Iowa Department of Education’s portion of funds received through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER III or ARP ESSER). State education agencies were granted a share of discretionary dollars to address critical needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In determining awards, priority consideration was given to applicant districts that provided clear evidence to plan and partner with one or more private partners on a model tailored to meet the needs of their communities and youngest learners.
Applications for a second round of awards will open later this spring. More information is available on the Iowa Department of Education’s website.