Grants available for First Class Pre-K classrooms

Grants available for First Class Pre-K classrooms

By DEVIN PAVLOU, Alabama Daily News

The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education is seeking more private child care centers to house its First Class Pre-K program and grants are available to offset costs.

“A First Class Pre-K grant can be a much-needed source of funding to help child care programs improve the quality of early education for children in their care,” said Allison Muhlendorf, executive director of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, in a written release.

The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education manages the First Class Pre-K program through a competitive grant process. Public and private schools, child care centers, faith-based centers, Head Start programs, nonprofits and other community-based preschool providers are all eligible to apply.

The Alabama School Readiness Alliance and the Alabama Association for Early Care and Education are hosting an informational webinar Jan. 23 to explain the  state’s application process and address improvements made to the First Class Pre-K program, including increased grant amounts and changes to the payment schedules and program guidelines. Organizations interested in participating must register at https://www.alabamaschoolreadiness.org/childcare/.

In 2019, for the 13th year in a row, the voluntary pre-K program earned the National Institute for Early Education Research’s top-quality status. The program is a point of pride for many state leaders, but in much of the state there aren’t enough classrooms to meet demand. The current state funding allows the program to reach about 40 percent of the state’s 4 year olds.

There are three different types of grants eligible childcare centers can apply for ranging from $50,400 up to $120,000. Grant applications are due by March 13 and winners will be announced later this spring. The number of new grants depends on the amount of increased funding from the Alabama Legislature in this year’s legislative session.