Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education announced that the state’s First Class Pre-K program will add another 107 classrooms to 33 counties this fall.
The new classrooms will expand access to Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten program to 18,864 children in the 2018-2019 school year, with more than 1,040 classrooms in all 67 counties that will serve 32 percent of eligible 4 year olds statewide.
“Having a strong start to one’s educational journey is critical to having a strong finish when it comes time to enter the workforce,” Ivey said. “Alabama’s voluntary First Class Pre-K program is, without question, the best in the nation. I am proud that we can increase the reach of this important educational opportunity, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature to further expand the availability of voluntary Pre-K.”
The Alabama Legislature approved an $18.5 million expansion for First Class Pre-K, increasing the 2019 program budget to $96 million. This is the program’s largest ever single-year increase.
In addition to funding new classrooms throughout the state, the Department of Early Childhood Education will increase the pay of Pre-K teachers 2.5 percent just like other classroom teachers in the upcoming school year.
The Office of School Readiness, housed within the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, is charged with administering First Class Pre-K. Despite the increase, there are still 39,453 eligible children who do not have access to First Class Pre-K.
“First Class Pre-K is a nationally-recognized program of excellence,” Jeana Ross, secretary of Early Childhood Education, said. “The program framework encompasses all aspects of the highest quality early learning experiences that ensure school readiness for children, and this emphasis on quality impacts student outcomes far beyond kindergarten.”
The National Institute for Early Education Research recognized Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program for having the highest-quality, state-funded voluntary pre-k program in the nation.
In February, Ivey announced that a University of Alabama at Birmingham study of Alabama third graders found that the state’s pre-k program significantly narrowed the academic achievement gaps that typically exist between children in poverty and their more affluent peers, and between minority children and non-minority children.
Harvard University is creating a full-length documentary featuring Alabama First Class Pre-K that will be released nationwide in Spring 2019.
The new Pre-K classes can be found on the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education’s website.