The Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) program is a $250 million competitive federal grant designed to improve states’ existing early childhood landscape by building upon federal, state, and local early care and learning investments. PDG B-5 was established through the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The first year of the PDG B-5 grants will fund state-level needs assessments and strategic planning to optimize existing early childhood education (ECE) resources. The grants focus on three major activities: maximizing parental choice, improving transitions within early care and learning programs and with elementary schools; and improving overall quality of ECE programs. This funding offers a unique opportunity for states to consider the full range of programs, services, and funding streams that support children birth through age five and their families.

Prior to ESSA, Congress appropriated funding for a different Preschool Development Grants program, now referred to as Legacy PDG, and the U.S. Department of Education made grants to states in 2015 and 2016. These grants provided much-needed funding for state development and expansion of access to high-quality pre-k for 4-year-olds from low-income backgrounds. PDG B-5 is distinct from Legacy PDG across purpose, eligibility, duration, matching requirements, use of funds, and reporting requirements. The first year of PDG B-5 grants fund state-level strategic planning to facilitate improved birth-through-five learning and care systems. Improved early learning systems will set up more children, especially those from low-income families, to succeed in elementary school and beyond.

While ESSA established the PDG B-5 in statute, funding for the program is contingent on the annual Congressional appropriations process. Congress should increase PDG B-5 funding to allow states to strengthen their efforts toward building strong early learning systems aligned with K-12 education and improve transitions from early learning programs to kindergarten.

Latest Update: In September 2018, HHS unveiled a funding opportunity announcement for PDG B-5, which indicated an expected 40 grants would be awarded, ranging in size between $500,000 and $15 million. Remarkably, 47 jurisdictions submitted applications for grants; previously, 36 states had applied for grants through Legacy PDG. Given the significant interest in the program, 46 grants were ultimately awarded ranging between $538,000 and $10.6 million. The one-year PDG B-5 planning grants will run through December 30, 2019, and recipients will be able to apply for renewal grants later in 2019.