State seeks bids for pre-K overhaul

State officials Wednesday announced that they are soliciting bids from school districts and others for pilot projects to overhaul pre-kindergarten classes in Louisiana.

The changes stem from a 2012 state law, which assigned details of the do-over to the state Department of Education and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The new setup is aimed at revamping what critics call a pre-kindergarten system that features uneven quality, standards and availability.

The rate of children entering kindergarten ready to learn is 54 percent. State officials hope to get that number to 70 percent.

The information released by the state Department of Education on Wednesday is called a request for applications.

It invites school districts, child care providers, Head Start programs and others to offer child care plans for review by state officials before the overhaul is started statewide in 2015.

Groups that take part are supposed to identify children from infant to age 5 who attend or need publicly funded child care and education services.

They are also to use new state learning and development standards; take part in program and child assessments; receive a quality rating; and develop a common application process for all programs.

Those picked to take part are eligible for up to $350,000 over two years.

The deadline for applications is March 22.

Those picked will be notified on April 12.

Pilot projects are set to begin with the 2013-14 school year.

The state will establish early learning performance guidelines for those from birth to age 3 and academic standards for 3- and 4-year-olds.

Pre-K centers and schools will get letter grades, and state aid will be linked to how the centers perform.

BESE approved the initial plans in December amid concerns that additional state dollars will be needed to make the improvements a reality.