Pre-K Task Force Recommendations
We also support the Governor’s request that the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education develop a plan to reach full access to the voluntary First Class Pre-K program (estimated at 70 percent of four-year-olds) in Alabama’s 19 highest poverty counties by September 2024.
Furthermore, we recommend that the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education create a plan and timeline for reaching 70 percent of Alabama’s four-year-olds in First Class Pre-K by 2026, including plans for addressing obstacles to reaching this goal (such as transportation, the need for quality providers and teachers, facilities, etc.). The Alabama School Readiness Alliance will continue to partner with the Department to overcome barriers to fully expanding Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program by 2026.
Additional Pre-K Task Force Recommendations:
The Pre-K Task Force proposes ten additional policy recommendations for ensuring that First Class Pre-K program reaches at least 70 percent of Alabama’s four-year-olds by 2026, while maintaining the program’s benchmarks for quality and accountability:
- We recommend that First Class Pre-K maintain the ten research-based quality benchmarks measured annually by the National Institute for Early Education Research.
- We recommend that the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education continue efforts to measure First Class Pre-K quality and outcomes through teacher and student assessments and longitudinal evaluation.
- We recommend strategies and policies that result in more First Class Pre-K classrooms being placed in community-based settings, such as targeted outreach to private child care providers (including faith-based providers), supporting providers in applying for First Class Pre-K funding, and providing mentoring through the new providers’ first year administering the program.
- We recognize that parents are their children’s first and most important teachers. With that in mind, we recommend that First Class Pre-K continue to incorporate evidence-based best practices for meaningfully engaging and strengthening families
- We recommend funding and encouraging partnerships to provide high-quality after school and summer programming so that working parents can enroll their children in First Class Pre-K.
- We recommend that the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education convene two- and four-year universities and expand scholarships, career tech and apprenticeship opportunities to ensure that Alabama has enough teachers to reach pre-k expansion goals.
- Reexamine the First Class Pre-K Funding formula and local match requirement to make sure that the funding amounts support continued pay parity for lead First Class Pre-K teachers with the state K-12 salary matrix, benefits for lead and auxiliary teachers, and classroom startup expenses.
- We recommend establishing a competitive salary matrix and benefits for First Class Pre-K’s auxiliary teachers, who are required to have a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential or have nine hours of child development coursework. State leaders can work with the CDA Council and other experts to establish a pay scale for auxiliary teachers based on experience. First Class Pre-K funding formulas for providers should be amended to cover increased auxiliary teacher salaries.
- We recommend funding and partnering with school systems, Head Start and other partners to provide transportation, where needed, so children can get to First Class Pre-K programs. This is especially important in Alabama’s rural communities.
- We recommend exploring additional funding streams for investing in the physical infrastructure for pre-k expansion (buildings with appropriate square footage, age-appropriate classrooms, etc.).