Baltimore City Public Schools headquarters on North Avenue. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Maryland’s state education department has launched a $193 million grant program to support early childhood education and care.

The Maryland Rebuilds grant program is using more than $193 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds “to stabilize, sustain, and expand the State’s child care and early childhood education systems, with the goal of expanding access to quality early learning programs and building a strong foundation for school readiness, growth, and success,” state education officials said.

The grant program is open to non-profit organizations, higher education institutions, local education departments, local early childhood advisory councils, and Judy Centers.

The application window for the Maryland Rebuilds program is open now through Oct. 10.

Applicants can learn more about the program here. MSDE also plans to hold information sessions.

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) gathered public input on how to spend the federal funds during three town halls last year.

Based on community input, MSDE said the Maryland Rebuilds program will prioritize supporting and improving access to child care; increasing the child care workforce; enhancing early learning opportunities; creating a coordinated system for enrolling in prekindergarten; and expanding mental health supports and services.

Prekindergarten enrollment declined by 25% in the first year of the pandemic. Of the children who were enrolled in pre-k, most received instruction virtually, according to MSDE.

This year’s Kindergarten Readiness Assessment found that 60% of kindergarteners “did not demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and behavior to actively engage in the curriculum.”

State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury said Maryland has an opportunity to improve early learning systems to be better than before the pandemic.

“As we continue to emerge from the pandemic and rebuild our early learning systems, we know that a return to normal is not good enough,” Choudhury said in a statement. “Unacceptable gaps and inequities existed before the pandemic and will continue to persist unless we do something differently.”

Choudhury said the Maryland Rebuilds program will make child care and early childhood education more accessible to underserved families.

“It envisions a child care system that works for all children, families, child care providers, and educators, especially those who have been historically underserved or otherwise not been able to participate in Department initiatives,” he said. “Complementing the Maryland Leads investment in school communities, Maryland Rebuilds provides the opportunity to work directly with child care providers and early childhood educators, support families and children, and address systemic issues in the child care system so that all children have access to excellent learning opportunities and the best possible outcomes.”

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...