The Cuomo Administration announced that New York state will compete in the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge. New York is eligible to receive up to $100 million to improve the quality and access of early learning programs that provide a solid foundation for all of New York's children. The Early Learning Challenge will reward states that create comprehensive plans to transform early learning systems with better coordination, clearer learning standards, and meaningful workforce development.

"A quality education is our promise to every child, and it begins with first-rate early learning programs," Governor Cuomo said. "Early learning is critical to providing the building blocks for school readiness and student achievement, and helps create a well-rounded and educated workforce that is vital to New York's future. I commend the Obama Administration for making quality early education a priority."

The Governor's Office will work closely with the New York State Education Department, the New York State Department of Health, and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, including the Early Childhood Advisory Council, to develop the application.

On May 15, 2011, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge, a new $500 million statelevel grant competition. The competition is designed to encourage States to increase access to quality early learning programs for low income and disadvantaged children, design integrated and transparent systems that align their early care and education programs, bolster training and support for the early learning workforce, create robust evaluation systems to document and share effective practices and successful programs, and help parents make informed decisions about care for their children.

On July 1, 2011, the U.S. Department of Education released preliminary criteria to identify components of a successful grant application. By late August, final criteria are expected to be released. Applications are expected to be due in mid-October and awards will be made by the end of December 2011.

New York is one of four states (along with California, Florida, and Texas) eligible to receive up to $100 million, the largest available grant category. This is based on the State's share of the national population of children ages birth through five years old from low-income families.

Last year, in June 2010, New York was awarded nearly $700 million in the second round of the original Race to the Top competition that set aside an historic $4 billion for states to improve educational outcomes from kindergarten through college. The New York State Education Department was the Governor's designated lead agency in that competition. The competition focused on world class standards and assessments, ensuring effective and qualified teachers for all students, utilizing strong data systems and improving the lowest performing schools in the state.