By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama’s First Class Pre-K has again been named the highest-quality state pre-k program in the nation.
This is the 13th-straight year First Class has attained the top-quality status from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). NIEER’s 2018 State of Preschool Yearbook evaluates the quality of state-funded pre-kindergarten programs operating during the 2017-2018 school year. Alabama, Michigan and Rhode Island, met or exceeded all ten of the benchmarks that NIEER the measures to determine a program’s quality.
NIEER Founder and Senior Co-Director Steven Barnett had high praise for First Class.
“We wish more states followed Alabama’s example of expanding pre-k enrollment with adequate funding, high quality, and demonstrated effectiveness,” said Barnett. “Research finds the program yields long-term gains in achievement. If the state continues to invest, all Alabama’s young children can benefit in the near future.”
NIEER also listed Alabama in its report as one of nine “States on the Move.” In its profile of Alabama, the group highlighted the state’s effort to increasing funding to expand enrollment and to ensuring pay parity for pre-k teachers.
Right now, First Class only has enough funding to reach about 32 percent of the state’s four-year-olds. Gov. Kay Ivey and the The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education are asking the Legislature for an additional $25 million to expand the program into 240 additional classrooms, which would bring the total number of classrooms up to 1,300 next school year.
Advocates from the Alabama School Readiness Alliance welcomed the news.
“The Alabama First Class Pre-K program’s 13-year reign leading the nation in pre-k quality is unprecedented, and a testament to the teachers, coaches, and monitors who work with children enrolled in the program every day,” said executive director Allison Muhlendorf.
Alabama’s proposed pre-k funding increase is part of the Education Trust Fund budget, which is awaiting committee consideration in the Senate.