Capitalizing on the Stimulus: A Rare Opportunity That Calls for Creative Thinking

Topic: Preschool, Stimulus Funds

We want your ideas!! There are many ways early education can capitalize on the billions being made available in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and State Education Agencies (SEAs) have access to a number of funding streams to further efforts that include professional development, quality improvement, program expansion and infrastructure development, just to name a few. Doing so, however, requires creative thinking, an assessment of need and an understanding of the avenues ARRA makes available, and stipulations for each.

Share Your Thoughts. We want to know what you think about ways pre-K can benefit from the ARRA, experiences you may have had in applying, or questions you may have. There are, to be sure, far more approaches than the few outlined here. Knowing how others in the field are approaching ARRA can be a big help in formulating your strategy.

Toward that end, NIEER has launched the Idea Factory to serve as a forum for sharing ideas and successes with others.

  • Using Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding to provide professional development for special education and regular education teachers in math, literacy and behavioral supports.
  • Using the State Fiscal Stabilization funds to construct preschool facilities that provide features like play areas where children can exercise their motor skills, food and snack preparation areas, learning centers, and conference space for parents and teachers.
  • Applying for competitive grants from the “Race to the Top” program to build upon and expand pre-K programs that have been shown to make progress in narrowing the achievement gap.
  • Applying for grants from the Innovation Fund to improve recruitment and placement of high-quality teachers.
  • Using Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds to supplement spending on early care and education for low-income families – as long as the money doesn’t “supplant” state budget reductions under specific conditions.
  • Using Title I funds to expand pre-K programs, deliver early childhood screening, provide professional development or temporarily increase income eligibility to serve more families.


  1. This is a great idea; I look forward to learning more about different initiatives that states and school districts might undertake with these funds.

    One important thing for districts to keep in mind: If you want to use stimulus dollars to invest in pre-k (and that’s a good idea–particularly when the administration is proposing new matching grants to districts who use Title I funds for pre-k), that doesn’t mean you have to do it all by yourself. Districts can partner with community-based providers to help them improve quality and strengthen alignment between community-based programs and the public schools. This approach can leverage existing early education programs and may be particularly helpful for districts that have limited space.

  2. Jana Martella on

    First, let me commend NIEER for creating this “space” for incubating innovative ideas, and for starting with an enormous catalyst for conversation — the ARRA and its potential to create a watershed for early childhood development. It is a BIG wagon and virtually everyone seems invited to hop on. The Administration also seems to have been very thoughtful in assuring a systemic view, applying varied instruments for economic recovery while aiming also to stimulate qualitative improvements in the programs and services that touch young children. The magnitude of the dollars and the speed required to meet the letter of this new law have resulted in quite a cacophony of information. It’s the job of the states, districts and communities to get the notes right. The hope is the bandwagon will resonate and tune their early childhood development systems. No doubt, many will be “listening.” I’m eager to hear some of these notations and will look for them here.

  3. This is a wonderful endeavor and I look forward to learning more about the creative uses of these funds. I wish to remind everyone that NAEYC has a dedicated web space for the ARRA, and has published a paper on how many of the different ARRA funds can be used to promote high quality professional development, including collaborative/joint professional development between schools and community settings.

  4. It seems that professional development is a big item for the AARA funds. I would like to avoid just training the people here currently. I would like to build a system of training. For example, identify the core trainings that are the foundations for a quality Early Childhood Educator (beyond what they get in college!). Then identify various modalities in which the trainings can be delivered: webinars, readings, face to face trainings, etc. The challenge becomes how to continually update this system.

  5. We at NAEYC are framing the ARRA uses for professional development through a comprehensive, cross-sector system. We are recommending that states and others use our professional development systems blueprint principles for guiding using the ARRA funds for early childhood educator professional preparation and ongoing professional development. The blueprint and the database of state policies on the essential policy areas and principles is available at

  6. Janice E. Katz, Ph.D. on

    Cross-Agency Collaboration and Innovation for Early Childhood
    A suggestion for the state of Indiana
    by Janice Englander Katz

    Advancement in the field of early childhood care and education is impeded by the “silo” nature of funding and therefore service delivery. Most early childhood advocates would agree in general about what is good for children. Depending upon the training, orientation and priorities of the agency and agent, however, the emphasis and priority will be placed in only one area. These areas include, but are not limited to, health and safety, education, child care, domain development, literacy, family support, character development and spirituality. Any advocate would be hard pressed to prove that any of these areas is more important than any other.

    Indiana can no longer afford to have these categorical divisions block our progress toward ensuring a society of healthy, educated citizens. Research solidly supports the effectiveness of investing in young children to accomplish this mission. Yet, fiscal challenges in all sectors force agencies and advocates to preciously guard their limited financial resources. Perhaps out of habit, agents respond by focusing myopically on their mission alone, becoming more insular and self-protective. This process leads to duplication of services, excessive administrative costs, poor communication among stakeholders and children receiving no services at all.

    The states and communities with the greatest service delivery success, measured in both fiscal and human outcomes, have succeed by encouraging programs that are under different arbitrarily defined silos to collaborate.

    Today, Indiana has an unprecedented, time-limited and singular opportunity to fundamentally change the way we provide early childhood services. Funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are very generous. Between Title I, Head Start/Early Head Start, IDEA Part C and Part B-Preschool and CCDBG, Indiana will receive well over $250,000,000 over two years. At the end of that period, this largess will no longer be available to any of us.

    I recommend that each administrative agency place a small percentage its ARRA allocation, perhaps 5%, into a common fund designated specifically for innovative cross-agency collaborative projects. The fund will be managed by the Governor’s office or other objective entity (i.e., not one of the departments that will participate.) When two or more agencies develop a collaborative program, they may apply for start-up funds from this resource, which may include implementation during the first year, outcome data collection and continuation planning. Proposals should include plans to sustain the delivery of services through existing federal or state budgeted funds, through private commitments such as endowments, bequests or corporate gifts, or preferably public/private partnerships. Projects may be local, regional or statewide, but should have implications for statewide service delivery.

    Below are three very different examples of how the collaborations could work:

    • One collaboration could include Head Start, The Department of Education and The Child Care Bureau. DOE (IDEA Part B Preschool), CCDBG (Quality) and Head Start (Development and Health) funds could be blended to support a pilot program of mental health/behavior consultation for child care, preschool, Head Start and kindergarten programs. A Cross-Agency Collaboration Grant could support development of the program and its implementation the first year. During the first year, the collaborative team would have to agree upon outcome data that is consistent with data already required of all three of those systems, if it currently exists. If outcome data supports continuation of the program after the first two years, the original agencies would be requested to continue to allocate a proportion of their IDEA Part B, CCDBG Quality and Head Start Development funds. Such a project might be attractive to philanthropic and corporate entities

    • Due to the recent implementation of Paths to Quality, Indiana has an increasing number of community-based child care programs that offer nationally accredited full year, full-day preschool and kindergarten programs. These programs are supported by CCDBG vouchers, families, tax credits and corporations that offer child care as a benefit. DOE is struggling to find sustainable funds for its commitment to all day kindergarten and school districts have very few Title I dollars available to build or operate preschool programs, though Title I clearly allows for such services. A Cross-Agency Collaboration grant would allow nationally accredited preschools and kindergartens in community-based programs to utilize Title I and DOE Full-Day Kindergarten funds to support their programs. This collaboration would obviate the need for DOE to spend additional resources to provide space and teachers to accommodate the tens of thousands of children already enrolled in high quality, research-based programs.

    Another collaboration could include the Indiana Department of Health, the Bureau of Child Care and the Department of Education. Funds blended would include ISDH Maternal Child Health, CCDBG Quality and DOE IDEA Part C. The Project could provide pediatric offices, child care providers and home visitors with education and materials to make comprehensive developmental screening universal. Training for health service providers and early care and education providers would be conducted locally and include guidelines for referral, intervention and follow-up.

  7. ARRA funding should go to existing high quality training programs that have proven track records and are accredited. Allowing more early childhood teachers access to Montessori training would expand the quality of childcare in non-Montessori settings. It will also allow for more diversity. Many training programs are accredited through MACTE which is recognized by the Dept. of Education. MACTE Accredited training programs should have access to stimulus funds as long as it goes towards training low income teachers.
    Many Montessori preschools are full day, seamless programs who are licensed and accredited by NAEYC. Learning Tree Montessori has been accredited by NAEYC since 1989. We recently were re-accredited with the new standards. We have families receiving subsidies and provide tuition assistance from annual fund and auction. All the funding we do goes towards our scholarship fund. Not much is left for capital expenses. High quality programs, both training and schools, should have access to ARRA funding. I will be interested in finding out more about how and who this money will serve. NAEYC should get together with AMS, IMC, Reggio and work towards giving ECE teachers more options based on the work that is already being done in the field of ECE. Please, let us not reinvent the wheel again.

  8. Robert Gundling, Ed.D. on

    I am encouraged with the support from the current administration to provide funding through the Stimulus Package to getting us closer to fully fund the finest Early Care and Education System in the world.

    As a practitioner, currently focused on providing much needed and well deserved services to low income families, children and the professionals who work with them, I have a few thoughts as to how we might use the funds to strengthen the Early Care and Education System. My thoughts include:

    -Create a public/private foundation in each state dedicated to funding innovative proposals that are collaborative efforts of leaders in the city/community who care about young children and our future. The foundation would include early childhood professionals, including practitioners, advocates and other key stakeholders who care about children in the community.

    -Create a technological infrastructure in the community so that every Early Care and Education facility would have the technology needed to operate efficient programs and collect reliable data, almost daily, to document the achievements of the program. It would also pave the way for teachers in Early Childhood Programs to enroll in Higher Education Degree programs, while at work. The thought of raising the quality of the time spent by teachers when children are resting, is exciting.
    -Support leaders in Early Care and Education in communities in efforts to develop a budget where the true cost of creating and sustaining a high quality Early Care and Education is a reality. So often, we describe what we need, what are our challenges, etc. This group would begin the chapter in our profession, where we would describe our needs, challenges and successes in terms of dollars and cents. Data driven decision making would be a reality.
    -Create a Blue Ribbon Panel charged with the responsibility to develop a comprehensive, strategic plan that paves the way for the United States to become the leader in the world in taking appropriate care of young children, families and the professionals who work with them. This would begin with providing the funding necessary to compensate those who work with young children at a level where we are able to attract the best and brightest individuals to work in our programs.

  9. There are so many high quality preschools that could offer services to more children if there were scholarships available. This is an ever increasing area of concern for families. They just can’t afford it. Now we are seeing an increase of parents wanting early entrance to kindergarten even if their child is not ready, just to save on costs early care and education.