Possible expansion of First Class Pre-K on the horizon

BEAUREGARD, Ala. — In Alabama, there are 816 First Class Pre-K classrooms. Of those 816 classrooms, there are eight in Lee County, which only allows for 8% of the four-year -olds in the county to participate in. Statewide, 25% of the four-year-olds have access to First Class Pre-K.

These numbers could change if funding for First Class Pre-K is increased by $20 million during this legislative session.

The added funding plus funding from year three of Alabama’s four-year federal Preschool Development Grant would add 160 more First Class Pre-K classrooms in the state and give access to 2,880 more four-year-olds. In addition, the increased funding would keep the state on pace for the goal of fully-funded First Class Pre-K by 2023.

“Education is what funds my district, what runs my district, what employs my district and which makes this district so attractive to the rest of the state,” Sen. Tom Whatley said. “We are the oasis of prosperity here in East Alabama, and by funding education adequately and appropriately in the right manner with the public buy in from the school systems and community, then we will have a higher education level than we have going forward.”

Monday, State Senator Tom Whatley (R-District 27), State Representative Joe Lovvorn (R-District 79), a representative from Congressman Mike Rogers’ office, Lee County Superintendent James McCoy and others attended a tour of Beauregard Elementary’s two First Class Pre-K classes.

Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program has been ranked the No.1 state funded pre-k program 10 years in a row by the National Institute for Early Education Research. It serves as a model pre-k program for the highest quality program you can have. Children learn important skills of executive function, which follow them through life. In addition, the teachers have a bachelor’s degree along with specialized early childhood training. The maximum class size is 20 or fewer children in addition to a staff to child ratio of 1:10 or less.

“If a child does not come in ready to learn, ready to read with some skills already there, they’re already behind,” Lee County Schools Superintendent James McCoy said. “What this program allows us to do is have quality teaching, learning and instruction hands on with the children that may not normally have that opportunity. We get them started and they go into kindergarten, they’re ahead of their classmates that have not had that opportunity.”

The program is voluntary, and it is administered by the state’s Department of Early Childhood Education by means of a competitive grant process. The classrooms can be set in public schools, faith-based centers, child care centers.

According to the ASRA, graduates from the First Class Pre-K program are more likely to be proficient in reading by third grade, more likely to graduate from high school and attend college, more likely to succeed in the workplace and less likely to commit a crime or rely on welfare programs.

Potential providers interested in becoming a First Class Pre-K program can visit children.alabama.gov for more information.

 

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