Top-ranked First Class Pre-K expands again

Top-ranked First Class Pre-K expands again

Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is again at the top of a national quality ranking and will expand in the next school year.

The Alabama Office of School Readiness, which oversees the pre-K program, will receive $173.7 million from the state education budget in the upcoming fiscal year. The $22.5 million increase will add 96 classrooms in 35 counties this fall. Additional classrooms will be funded based on the evaluation of high-needs areas prior to the start of the school year, Gov. Kay Ivey’s office said in a written statement.

The state has set an early learning enrollment goal of 70% of eligible students. Currently it serves about 42% and waiting lists around the state are common for the program for 4 year olds.

The National Institute for Early Education Research this week released its annual report on state pre-K programs. Those in Alabama, Hawaii, Michigan, Mississippi and Rhode Island were the only to meet all 10 of NIEER’s benchmarks for minimum quality standards. Those benchmarks include early learning standards, a class size of 20 or fewer students, staff-student ratio of 1 to 10 and bachelor’s degree requirement for teachers.

“Alabama’s First Class Pre-K has once again been recognized as a national model for delivering high-quality early childhood education that gives our youngest citizens a strong start to their educational journey,” Ivey said in a written statement. “I am glad to see that even more students will have access to pre-K next year and look forward to the day that all Alabama families who want pre-K for their children have access.”

The program next school year will be able to serve 26,658 children.

“We are excited to serve an additional 1,728 students in our First Class Pre-K program in the coming year,” Barbara Cooper, secretary of Early Childhood Education, said in a statement. “We are thrilled that Gov. Ivey and our state leaders continue to invest in early childhood education supporting Alabama First Class Pre-K in maintaining all 10 NIEER quality benchmarks for 16 years running.”

More information on Alabama’s pre-K program can be found here.