HALLOWELL — Maine’s failure to secure a major federal grant won’t halt plans to improve early childhood education, state officials said.

But the failure, announced on Friday, will slow the work and limit outreach to teachers and day-care providers, they said.

Maine submitted one of 37 applications for a piece of the $500 million Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. The federal government decided to fund nine states: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.

Maine’s application for $32 million earned 221 points out of a possible 280, ranking 17th overall. California, the ninth-place state, scored 243.6, and North Carolina scored highest, at 269.6.

Awards ranged from $50 million each for Massachusetts and Rhode Island to nearly $70 million each for North Carolina and Ohio.

“There are many others states we would love to have funded, but we simply didn’t have enough resources,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Friday during a conference call. “We hope and anticipate that with their blueprints for reform in their early childhood education, they will continue to move from plans on paper toward action plans and implementation.”

Jaci Holmes, federal-state liaison at the Maine Department of Education, said the team that prepared Maine’s application was disappointed and surprised to be turned down, considering the work already under way in the state.

Maine’s application proposed to use the Early Learning Challenge money to:

* update early learning standards and align them with the Common Core elementary standards;

* strengthen and expand the Quality for ME rating system for early care and education providers;

* work with higher education institutions to train early childhood educators; and

* incorporate early care and education programs into the State Longitudinal Data System to analyze the impact of the programs on children’s later educational achievement.

All of that still will happen, Holmes said Friday during a news conference at Hall-Dale Elementary School in Hallowell.

“It will just be that the work will take a little bit longer than if we had been funded,” she said.

Holmes and Therese Cahill-Low, director of the Office of Child and Family Services at the Department of Health and Human Services, said the seven weeks of work that went into preparing the federal application has already improved coordination between the two departments.

They have created an inter-departmental sub-agency that will continue to meet. Even without funding, the two departments can coordinate on policies to create more consistency in Maine’s diverse system of early childhood education, Cahill-Low said.

But the lack of funding will reduce outreach, Holmes said.

“I think it (the funding) more would have impacted what we could have done at the local level with technical assistance, mentorship and professional development and support,” she said.

Maine’s application lost points in areas including using kindergarten entry assessments to evaluate early learning; including all early learning and development programs in the Quality for ME rating system; and the budget to implement the grant.

The reviewers scored Maine higher on articulating a reform agenda and goals; developing high-quality learning standards; and training early childhood educators.

Hall-Dale prekindergarten teacher Sue Dodge said she was disappointed to hear that Maine didn’t receive a grant.

She would appreciate more workshops and conferences, more of which could have been available with the grant money.

“Time for people to share what they do — people getting together, trading ideas, networking — is really very helpful,” she said.

The value of early childhood education is easily seen in students’ academic achievement and behavior, Dodge said.

“The kindergarten teachers say they can literally pick out the students who have had pre-K,” she said.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]

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