Local & State Officials Hoping to Expand Alabama’s First Class Pre-K Program
Alabama leads the nation in it’s First Class Pre-K Program.
A voluntary program for 4-year-olds funded through grants by the Department of Early Childhood Education.
“Children are learning how to share, how to listen to adults, these are things that are learned when children are able to get a head start at Pre-K and then they come to kindergarten with these things in place,” said Allison Muhlendorf, Executive Director of the Alabama Readiness Alliance.
*The National Institute for Early Education Research ranked Alabama’s First Class Pre-K Program as the nation’s highest quality program for the 12th consecutive year.
The report also stated First Class Pre-K is the only program in the country that comes close to having all the elements of a strong Pre-K Program.
“The skills that they learn in Pre-K are going to help them in the rest of their lives to do well in school, but also to do well in careers and be contributing members of society. It all starts in early childhood,” said Muhlendorf.
Research shows, 4-year-olds, who are enrolled in this program, outperform their peers in reading and math. The kids in the program are also more likely to graduate from high school and find success in the workplace.
“You saw them playing in snow, in jello and building things, they each are on their own level of learning and growing,” said Barbara Patton, with the Alabama Readiness Pre-K Task Force.
But, there are only enough classrooms for 10% of Lee County four-year- olds compared to 32% in the state of Alabama.
Lee County schools have five First Class Pre-K Programs in their district. Two of them at Beauregard Elementary school, two at Beulah Elementary school and one at Loachapoka Elementary school.
“We need more programs here. We’re working to encourage law makers to invest state resources to reach more children,” said Muhlendorf.
A local task force helping spotlight the need.
“Education in all things brings quality to your community and that starts with Pre-K. We want our citizens to be well-educated and successful in life and we want to get them the best start possible,” said Patton.
The hope is that the state continues to fund this program and their long term vision is to give every Alabama family the opportunity to enroll their 4-year-old in this program.