Alabama’s Voluntary First Class Pre-K Program Named Highest Quality State-Funded Pre-K Program in the Nation
Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary First Class Pre-K program was named the highest quality state-funded Pre-Kindergarten program in the nation for the 13th year in a row.
Alabama is one of only three states, along with Michigan and Rhode Island, to meet or exceed all ten of the benchmarks that the National Institute for Early Education Research measures to determine a program’s quality.
NIEER’s 2018 State of Preschool Yearbook evaluates the quality of state-funded Pre-Kindergarten programs operating during the 2017-2018 school year.
That year, Alabama enrolled approximately 16,884 four-year-olds.
State leaders have since expanded funding for the program to extend its reach to 18,800 four-year-olds in the current school year.
NIEER also listed Alabama in its report as one of nine “States on the Move.”
In its profile of Alabama, NIEER highlighted the state’s commitment to increasing funding to expand enrollment and to ensuring pay parity for Pre-K teachers.
In addition to the First Class Pre-K program’s perennial stay at the top of quality rankings, ASRA also points to continuing research by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham to demonstrate the impact state investments in re-k are making in improving student outcomes.
The PARCA/UAB team has found that students who participate in a First Class Pre-K classroom – regardless of demographics, zip code or school – are more likely to be proficient in math and reading than their peers. This study currently reviews student assessment scores through the seventh grade, and researchers plan to continue their evaluations as students progress through high school.
The Alabama School Readiness Alliance’s business-led Pre-K Task Force is encouraging lawmakers to approve a $25 million expansion of the First Class Pre-K program. Governor Ivey included this expansion in her Fiscal Year 2020 education budget.
If appropriated by the state legislature, the proposed funding increase would open as many as 240 additional classrooms next year and help bring the total number of First Class classrooms statewide close to 1,300.
The Alabama Senate Committee on Finance and Taxation Education gave a favorable report to Governor Kay Ivey’s proposed $25 million Pre-K funding increase.
The committee-adopted proposal also includes an additional $1.8 million to help ensure all First Class Pre-K teachers receive a pay raise at the same level as their K-12 counterparts.
With these increases, the total amount approved by the Senate committee for the state’s high quality, voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program for four-year-olds is $122.8 million for Fiscal Year 2020.
If approved by the state legislature, a $25 million funding increase would allow the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education to add more than 200 classrooms next year and help bring the total number of First Class classrooms statewide nearly 1,300.
The ASRA Pre-K Task Force consists of more than 60 prominent leaders from the business, education, civic, medical, legal, philanthropic, military and child advocacy communities.
The Pre-K Task Force first proposed expanding voluntary pre-k access to all families in 2012.
Since then, state leaders have incrementally increased the level of investment in Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program from $19 million to $96 million.
In 2012, the program enrolled just six percent of Alabama’s four-year-olds.
In the 2018-19 school year, 32 percent of Alabama’s four-year-olds attend First Class Pre-K.
Courtesy: Alabama School Readiness Alliance