GIA Successfully Advocates Arts in USDOE Grant Program

Grantmakers in the Arts’ Arts Education Funders Coalition (AEFC) successfully advocated for the arts as part of the curricular approach in the Obama administration’s Preschool Development Grants. $250 million will be granted to states (and local providers) in a competitive process, which has an October 14 application deadline. Without AEFC’s efforts, the arts would not be included in this program, which specifically helps preschoolers living below the poverty level. Arts advocates should act quickly to determine if their state will make application and how the arts learning requirements will be presented within their state’s application.


The AEFC has been working with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure the jointly administered Preschool Development Grants program provided coordination opportunities with local arts organizations, and more importantly ensured that young children in preschool programs funded under this initiative were taught with and had exposure to the arts in the same manner presently employed for young children in Head Start programs. We were successful in including these concepts in the legislative proposals in Congress and have been working to shape the implementation of the $250 million that was appropriated for this purpose in last year’s funding bill. We provided comments to the Departments (in several instances), GIA CEO Janet Brown met with Department officials, and Alex Nock and Kara Marchione of the Penn Hill Group directly lobbied for the inclusion of the arts. Our goal was to have the arts mentioned in the “approaches to learning” domain that each preschool program had to address.

What We Got

ED and HHS issued their application for this program on August 13. The application includes a modified definition of the “Essential Domains of School Readiness” that specifically mentions the arts within the approaches to learning aspect of that definition. In addition, the application allows for local preschool programs to coordinate with local arts organizations, also an element for which we advocated.

Program Structure

There are two types of preschool development grants — Development Grants and Expansion Grants. States with robust early childhood development programs may apply for Expansion Grants, others may apply for Development Grants. A list of states and their status as determined by ED is listed below. If a state receives a grant, they must sub-grant a certain percentage of funds down to local providers, which can include schools, local early childhood programs, etc. Local preschool programs receiving these funds would have to meet the definition of a “High-Quality Preschool Program.” This definition requires that curriculum and instruction be aligned with State Early Learning Standards. Under the program, these standards are required to include the Essential Domains of School Readiness, defined below with the arts specifically called out as advocated by AEFC.

Essential Domains of School Readiness means the domains of language and literacy development, cognition and general knowledge (including early mathematics and early scientific development), approaches toward learning (including the utilization of the arts), physical well-being and motor development (including adaptive skills), and social and emotional development.

Opportunities for Your Grantees/Schools

Governors will designate a lead agency to apply for and administer the program, which may or may not be the state education department. States will make awards to school districts, local early education programs, or consortia of these school districts and programs. This grant structure creates several opportunities at both the state and local level.

Though time is short, state and local arts agencies can help their states think through the design of their applications and the programs they will be seeking to fund. There may be opportunities for local arts agencies and organizations to help preschool programs design or select curricula. There may also be opportunities to directly augment program offerings with the arts at preschool programs seeking to meet the requirements of the grant program.

This is also a good opportunity for local and state organizations to interface with each state’s Early Childhood Advisory Councils. These Councils were created several years ago under the Head Start Act to provide coordination around early childhood in each state and provide excellent opportunity for leadership in arts education and preschool.

U.S. Department of Education eligibility designations

Development Grants
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

Expansion Grants
Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

FYI: Grant application and information:

Another explanation of the USDOE program: