By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
Gov. Kay Ivey is planning to launch a new education initiative focused on pre-K–3rd-grade education, workforce development and computer science programs in middle and high schools across the state.
The program, dubbed the “Strong Start, Strong Finish” initiative, was announced at the Innovation Depot in Birmingham on Wednesday.
“Alabama needs a comprehensive approach of collaboration that improves education from pre-K to the workforce. That’s the goal of Strong Start, Strong Finish,” Ivey said. “Our educational system has not received the positive spotlight it deserves. Under Strong Start, Strong Finish, we will bring all stakeholders to the table and provide coordination that will help students succeed in school and after they graduate.”
Early childhood education, such as PreK programs and early elementary initiatives, improve children’s cognitive, social and emotional intelligence and development, according to National Education Association and the National Institute for Early Education Research.
Studies show that it drastically improves literacy, math proficiency and even reduces the likelihood that young adults will commit crimes.
Ivey’s office said her plan will strengthen support for Alabama’s pre-K initiatives and early elementary schools. The goal is for each child to be proficient in reading by at least third grade, her office said, among other goals.
The initiative also intends to spread computer science education across Alabama’s schools to establish a unified computer-science education vision. The program will establish coding classes and computer science courses at all middle and high schools, her office said.
The computer science field is one of the highest-paying industries in the state, with average salaries totaling in at more than $80,000 a year — more than twice the median income in the state. Ivey’s office said more than 4,600 jobs are open in computer science in Alabama.
The plan notes that more computer science training can recruit new businesses seeking qualified employees and equip students for a 21st Century economy.
The final component of the plan — Advanced Training, Better Jobs — will involve Ivey’s office developing policies and promoting career development programs for in-high-demand jobs.
By 2020, 62 percent of jobs available in Alabama will require some form of postsecondary education,” her office said. “Today, only 37 percent of our workforce meets those criteria.”