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July 14, 2020

County getting $6.5M in federal funding for early childhood education

Credit: Bethesda Beat, Dana Gerber

As public schools struggle to determine a path forward for the fall, Montgomery County is receiving $6.5 million in federal funding for early childhood education. U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Reps. Jamie Raskin and David Trone announced the funding Friday in a press release. It includes: A new $5.0 million grant for Montgomery County through Head Start, a free program that prepares low-income 3- to 5-year-olds for kindergarten through teaching, health and development screenings, and family financial and housing support. $1.5 million of continuation funding for the Reginald S. Lourie Center for Infants & Young Children in Rockville through the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership, which offers child care services, education for toddlers until age three and assistance to pregnant women throughout the county. The funds are provided through the Department of Health and Human Services. There are 34 Head Start programs in elementary schools throughout the county, and applications for enrollment are still being accepted through the pandemic. As schools remain closed due to the COVID-19 virus, Head Start programs throughout the county also remain closed. The Lourie Center’s Head Start program is also currently closed, according to its website. “Too often, academic opportunity is limited by early education gaps that only grow wider,” the lawmakers said in a press release. “This funding will help hundreds of children in Montgomery County begin learning at a young age — when it can matter most – and build the foundation for their bright futures.” The Head Start program received $10.6 billion in 2020, in addition to $750 million from the CARES Act, which provides funds to businesses that experienced fallout due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Brenda Lewis, director of MCPS’ Department of Elementary Curriculum and Districtwide Programs, said in an interview in June that enrollment in prekindergarten and Head Start programs is lower than in previous years. She encouraged eligible families to apply as soon as possible. “This year has just posed a very different situation for us and a lot of families,” Lewis said. “During this spring, we weren’t able to register families in person, so it is different than how the process has looked in the past.”