Governor Ivey announces 107 new First Class Pre-K grants

April 30, 2018


Today, Governor Ivey and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education announced that the state’s high-quality, voluntary First Class Pre-K program is expanding by 107 new classrooms due to the $18.5 million increase in state investments approved by the Alabama Legislature last month. This will allow an additional 1,926 four-year-olds to attend the program in the upcoming school year.

A full list of the new classrooms can be downloaded here
 
The Governor's press release is below, and you can also click here to view the release on the Governor's website. 

Despite the addition of the new classrooms, there will only be enough classrooms in the 2018-2019 school year to enroll 32 percent of four-year-olds statewide. The Alabama School Readiness Alliance is encouraging state lawmakers to continue to prioritize increased funding to expand Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program until all families that want to enroll their four-year-olds are able to do so. In 2012, ASRA launched a ten-year advocacy campaign to incrementally expand funding for the First Class Pre-K program. Since then, the program has grown from an annual budget of $19 million to $96 million for 2018-2019. ASRA estimates that the state will need to increase annual appropriations to approximately $144 million to fully fund the program.
 
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From Governor Kay Ivey
Press Release: 107 New First Class Pre-K Classrooms to be Added in 2018-2019 School Year
April 30, 2018
 
MONTGOMERY –Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education announced on Monday that the state’s First Class Pre-K program will add 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 four-year-olds statewide.
 
This year 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 continue to ensure pay parity for all First Class Pre-K teachers with the same 2.5% cost of living raise as K-12 public school teachers in the upcoming school year.
 
“Having a strong start to one’s educational journey is critical to having a strong finish when it comes time to enter the workforce,” Governor 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 Office of School Readiness, housed within the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, is charged with administering First Class Pre-K. The Office of School Readiness is dedicated to working with pre-k programs to ensure that Alabama’s four-year-olds have access to the opportunities that prepare them for school success. While this is a notable achievement for our state, there are still 39,453 eligible children who do not have access to First Class Pre-K.
 
Today’s announcement comes one week after Alabama First Class Pre-K was recognized by the National Institute for Early Education Research for having the highest-quality, state-funded voluntary pre-k program in the nation. “First Class Pre-K is a nationally-recognized program of excellence,” said Jeana Ross, Secretary of Early Childhood Education. “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.”
 
In February, Governor Ivey also announced an in-depth study of Alabama third graders that found 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. According to research conducted by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, students who participated in First Class Pre-K are more likely to be proficient in reading and math at every grade level, consistent with the results from previous statewide and national studies.
 
These outcomes have caught the attention of researchers from Harvard University, who are creating a full-length documentary featuring Alabama First Class Pre-K that will be released nationwide in Spring 2019.
 
A list of all classrooms can be found at: http://children.alabama.gov/parents-families/findprek/

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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.