Central Alabama Regional Initiative Helps Child Care Centers Join First Class Pre-K program

July 24, 2017

TARRANT, Ala. – As Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary First Class Pre-K program continues to expand across the state, a Central Alabama regional initiative is ensuring that licensed childcare centers in the area are able to participate in the program.

Early childhood experts from the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, and pre-k advocates from The Bold Goals Coalition of Central Alabama and the Alabama School Readiness Alliance today discussed results from the first year of the Bold Goals Education Early Learning Action Network's Expanding Pre-K Access project. The project’s goal is to create a support system that helps more licensed childcare centers successfully complete applications for Alabama’s First Class Pre-K funding – and improve the quality of childcare in the process.

Today’s briefing was held at Joshua Learning Tree Academy, one of the local child care centers participating in this initiative. In May, Governor Ivey announced that Joshua Learning Tree would receive a $150,000 First Class Pre-K grant to add a new classroom, support lead and assistant teacher salaries, and purchase developmentally appropriate materials.

Following the briefing, officials from the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education led a “hard hat” tour of the new classroom being installed at Joshua Tree Learning Aacdemy as a result of the Bold Goals’ effort.

“The Bold Goals Coalition of Central Alabama is working collectively to make quality educational opportunities more available throughout our area,” said Dr. Phil Hammonds, co-chair, Bold Goals Education, and a member of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance’s Pre-K Task Force. “Today is just another example of what partnerships and collaborations can do to make these wonderful opportunities for children and families become a reality.”

Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is managed by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. For 11-years in a row, it has been ranked the number one state-funded pre-kindergarten program in the country for quality by the National Institute for Early Childhood Education.

The new classroom at Joshua Learning Tree Academy is one of 17 new First Class Pre-K classrooms awarded in Jefferson County this year. The new classrooms were made possible due to increased state appropriations in the FY 2018 Education Trust Fund Budget along with funding from year three of Alabama's four-year federal Preschool Development Grant.

“PNC remains committed to working with the Alabama School Readiness Alliance and its partners to advocate for greater access to high-quality pre-k programs for all of Alabama’s families,” said Brian Bucher, PNC regional president and ASRA Pre-K Task Force member. “We are celebrating another year of pre-k expansion, but there are still too many families that lack access to quality early learning opportunities.”

This fall, there will be 938 First Class classrooms across the state. However, that is only enough classrooms to enroll approximately 16,884 four-year-olds, or 28 percent of all four-year-olds in Alabama.

In 2012, the ASRA Pre-K Task Force launched a ten-year campaign, now in its fifth year, to advocate for incremental funding increases for First Class Pre-K until the program is fully funded in the 2022-2023 school year. ASRA has estimated that the state would need to appropriate a total level of funding of $144 million to give every Alabama family the opportunity to voluntarily enroll their four-year-old in a First Class Pre-K program.
 
The Alabama School Readiness Alliance advocates for the expansion of high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten. ASRA works to ensure that pre-k is a continuing priority for Alabama’s children, parents, community leaders, legislators and governing officials. ASRA is a collaborative effort of A+ Education Partnership, Alabama Giving, Alabama Partnership and VOICES for Alabama’s Children. Visit www.alabamaschoolreadiness.org to learn more.

The Bold Goals Coalition of Central Alabama (BGCCA) is a community based initiative to align the efforts of organizations from all sectors, including business, nonprofits ,government, education and the faith community to address disparities in education, financial stability and health. United Way of Central Alabama convenes and drives the Bold Goals Coalition. Visit boldgoals.org to learn more.