By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, May 31, 2017, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education today announced that the State’s First Class Pre-K program will add 122 new classrooms this fall. The new classrooms will increase the size of Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten program for the 2017-2018 school year to 938 classrooms enrolling approximately 16,884 four-year-olds (28 percent of all four-year-olds) statewide.
The new classrooms were made possible by the state of Alabama appropriations in the FY 2018 Education Trust Fund Budget along with funding from year three of Alabama’s four-year federal Preschool Development Grant. A list of the new classrooms can be found here.
Gov. Ivey said, “A high-quality childhood education program has long lasting benefits on our society as a whole. Investment in our people through education, no matter at what level, is an investment in economic development. I am proud that we are now offering our nationally acclaimed First Class Pre-K program to more Alabama children and families.”
More than 2,100 additional four-year-olds will be able to enroll in the high-quality, voluntary Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program next fall, according to an analysis by the Alabama School Readiness Alliance.
In a joint statement, the Co-Chairs of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance’s business-led Pre-K Task Force, Bob Powers and Mike Luce, welcomed the announcement by Governor Ivey and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.
Powers and Luce wrote in their join statement, “The continued expansion of Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary First Class Pre-K program is tremendous news for the hundreds of families that will gain access to the program this fall. Thanks to increased State investments, the percentage of Alabama four-year-olds enrolled in the program will grow from 25 to 28 percent. We are grateful that Governor Ivey and State lawmakers continue to prioritize funding for the expansion of the First Class Pre-K program. We hope they will continue to do so until all families across Alabama that want to enroll their child in a First Class Pre-K classroom are able to do so.”
Mike Luce is the Vice Chairman of Harbert Management in Birmingham. Bob Powers is the President of The Eufaula Agency. They are joined on the ASRA Pre-K Task Force by more than 40 prominent leaders from the business, education, civic, medical, legal, philanthropic, military and child advocacy communities. The task force advocates for fully funding Pre-K across the State by 2022.
Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is managed by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE).
The Secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education Jeanna Ross said, “We are very excited that we are able to make the State’s First Class Pre-K program available to more families in the upcoming school year, I look forward to when Alabama can make the program available to all families that wish to enroll their four-year-olds.”
The Alabama Legislature appropriated a total of $77.5 million for Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program in the 2018 Education Trust Fund (ETF) Budget. ASRA has estimated that the State would need to appropriate a total level of funding of $144 million to fully fund Pre-K.
ADECE is a part of the Executive Department of the State government, principally established to enable the Governor to effectively and efficiently coordinate early learning programs throughout the State. The department administers the First Class Pre-K program through competitive grants awarded annually. Classrooms are located in public and private schools, child care centers, faith-based centers, Head Start programs, and other community-based preschool settings.
ADECE received more than 300 grant applications for new classrooms. The Department prioritized grants to communities that indicated the greatest need for additional classrooms. Demand for enrollment continues to exceed the number of classrooms available. Even with the expansion, to-date, more than 3,400 students already pre-registered for next year will not have the opportunity to attend. Students are selected for the limited slots via random drawings at local sites.
The mission of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education is to provide state leadership that identifies, promotes, and coordinates services for children, their families, and communities. With primary emphasis on ensuring that all of Alabama’s children are prepared for school success and lifelong learning through voluntary, diverse, high-quality early childhood programs.
Alabama, in recent testing, has scored near the bottom on a number of educational measurements. It remains to be seen if Pre-K will lead to any change in the State’s historically poor educational performance.