TOPEKA — Kansas received a $27 million federal grant — one of the largest competitive grants ever received by the Kansas State Department of Education — to help create comprehensive literacy programs at schools across the state, the agency announced Monday.

The Kansas Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Initiative will be funded by the award from the U.S. Department of Education. The initiative will offer districts/consortia meeting specific criteria an opportunity to apply for funds from the grant. Districts have to serve at least 5,000 students in order to apply individually. Districts that serve fewer than 5,000 students may apply as part of a consortium.

Applications will be available by mid-October and are due by Dec. 29. Eight districts or consortia will be selected from the applications and funded at a little over $1 million per year for three years, she said. The subgrantees will be notified in January 2018.

The purpose of the U.S. Department of Education’s Striving Readers Compressive Literacy Program will be to advance literacy skills for students from birth through grade 12, including preliteracy skills and reading and writing, with a focus on English learners and students with disabilities.

KSDE applied for the literacy program grant in July with the assistance of the KU Center on Research and Learning. The center will receive a small portion of the award during the next three years as they support and advise KSDE during the initiative.

As one of 11 states selected for funding, KSDE is required to subgrant at least 95 percent of the funds to districts/consortia across Kansas. The subgrantees must serve children from economically-disadvantaged households, English learners and students with disabilities. KSDE will be able to subgrant more than 96 percent of the funds.

The remaining funds will pay for a full-time education program consultant and administrative assistant at KSDE to administer the program at the state level, as well as an external evaluation team to monitor its progress and impact.