New Classrooms for Nation’s Highest Quality Pre-K Program in Alabama
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey recently stressed the importance of early childhood education in a speech delivered at the Montgomery Rotary Club, advocating for the expansion of the state's nationally recognized First Class Pre-K program. Recognizing the impressive impact of the program, she proposed to boost its coverage from the current 45% to 70% of Alabama's four-year-olds.
The First Class Pre-K program, administered by Alabama's Office of School Readiness, is noted for its exceptional quality and rigorous standards. Having been awarded the highest quality rating from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for 16 consecutive years, the program has been influential in setting young learners on the path to success. It has grown significantly from serving just over 5,000 Alabama four-year-olds in 2013 to more than 22,000 in 2021.
Governor Ivey emphasized that the path to classroom success begins with the youngest learners. The First Class Pre-K program has shown positive results for students, with data indicating that those participating in the program are more likely to be ready for kindergarten, proficient in reading and math, less likely to need special education, and less likely to receive disciplinary reports.
Governor Ivey's call for expansion was supported by the Alabama School Readiness Alliance (ASRA), a non-profit group advocating for the expansion of "high-quality, voluntary Pre-K" in the state. The ASRA echoed Ivey's request for a plan from the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, aiming to achieve 70% coverage in Alabama's 19 highest poverty counties by the fall of 2024.
ASRA's further recommendations included a plan to reach 70% of four-year-olds statewide by 2026, factoring in the need for quality providers and teachers, transportation, facility funding, and after-school care. The organization emphasized the critical role of Alabama's private childcare system in providing additional classrooms and teachers necessary for the proposed expansion.
Although national results of pre-K funding have shown varied outcomes, Alabama's First Class Pre-K program remains a paragon of quality, highlighting the potential benefits of early investment in education for long-term success.
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