We Are Lawrence

Lawrence gets federal funding to expand Pre-K programs

Posted: Friday, December 12, 2014 12:15 am

By Lauren DiTullio lditullio@eagletribune.com

LAWRENCE — Thanks to a federal grant of $2.35 million, more Lawrence families will have the opportunity to place their children into a high quality pre-school program.

The money is part of a $60 million grant to be distributed to the communities of Lawrence, Lowell, Holyoke, Springfield and Boston over the next four years, $9.3 million of which will go to Lawrence.  About 750 four-year-olds in the five communities will benefit from the funding in the first year, according to Governor Deval Patrick's office. Expanded programming will be offered through the partnership of school districts and community providers of early childhood education, according to the governor's announcement. 

Seth Racine, deputy superintendent for Lawrence Public Schools, said about 130 four-year-olds who are not currently in preschool will now be able to attend a program. The details are still being ironed out, Racine said, including where the programs will be held and when they will be ready for students to enroll. 

"This is really going to be a partnership with our community-based organizations to try and figure out how to make the best programs out there," Racine said. 

Massachusetts was one of 18 states to receive one of the preschool grants, which totaled more than $226 million, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“The announcement of new federal funding through the preschool expansion grant competition is recognition of the Commonwealth's longstanding investment in our young students, and of the innovative work done by our teachers and administrators," Congresswoman Niki Tsongas said in a statement. "This funding will enable Third District communities to open more seats for our youngest learners and give more families access to this early learning opportunity, which is critical to improved childhood development. It is a strong investment in our future.” 

 According to Governor Patrick's announcement, the funding will be used to expand full-day and full-year preschool programs with low child-to-teacher ratios, supporting children and their families through school transition, enhancing professional development for early childhood educators, putting a system in place to measure children's development and collect data for strategic planning and encouraging mentoring opportunities and higher salaries for preschool teachers. 

"We are extremely excited about this opportunity for the students of Lawrence," Racine said.