Pre-K expansion advocates discuss next steps

Pre-K expansion advocates discuss next steps

By HEATHER GANN, Alabama Daily News

To get Alabama’s award-winning pre-K program to at least 70 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds by 2025-26, a group of early education advocates on Monday released a list of recommendations for the 2022 legislative session.

These plans are dependent on the legislative approval of Gov. Kay Ivey’s proposal to increase state investments in First Class Pre-K by $22.5 million during the ongoing session. Such an increase would fund 125 new classrooms, bring enrollment from 42% to 45% of eligible children and support teacher recruiting efforts.

“This Pre-K program sets the bar for all other teachers in the building and gets everyone on the same page,” said Alice Nelson, a teacher in the Mobile County Public School System. “It ensures that these kids are ready and set up for success when they come into kindergarten and continue on.”

Alabama’s First Class Pre-K is a state-funded program administered by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education that uses a “diverse delivery” grant structure to create high-quality, state-funded Pre-K classrooms for four-year-olds in public schools, Head Start and private programs.  

This program has been ranked No. 1 in the country for quality education for 15 years in a row by the National Institute for Early Education Research. Studies completed by UAB and the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama have shown First Class Pre-K students are more likely to be proficient in state reading and math assessments and less likely to be chronically absent from school or be held back a grade.

“This is just one part of a culture we’re working to establish where we’re ensuring that we have successful and productive state citizens when they leave the twelfth grade,” said Bob Powers, chair of Alabama School Readiness Alliance Pre-K Task Force. 

The alliance also stressed the importance of reliable childcare. Two of the listed recommendations are “for the state to invest in programs to improve the quality of the existing childcare infrastructure, which has been severely challenged during the COVID pandemic” and “funding and encouraging partnerships to provide high-quality after school and summer programming so that working parents can enroll their children in First Class Pre-K.”

Watch the full presentation HERE:

For the full list of the ASRA’s recommendations, visit https://www.alabamaschoolreadiness.org/2022recommendations/.