Free Film Festival to Highlight Need for Increased Investments in Early Childhood Education and Care

Two documentaries exploring the importance of early childhood education in improving educational and economic outcomes in America are streaming online for free in Alabama throughout January as part of the first ever Invest Early Alabama Film Festival. Both documentaries will be available on-demand and for FREE for all registered participants.

The Invest Early Alabama Film Festival is a project of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance with the Alabama Association of School Boards and the Business Council of Alabama. PNC Bank is sponsoring the festival.

The first film, No Small Matter (airing January 4-17), lays out the overwhelming evidence for the importance of the first five years and the dire consequences of our country’s failure to act on that evidence. The second filmStarting at Zero: Reimagining Education in America (airing January 18-February 2), focuses its lens on Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program. This nationally-recognized program funds and supports quality four-year-old classrooms in a variety of early care and education settings. Starting at Zero was produced by the Saul Zaentz CharitableFoundation for the Harvard University School of Education. The documentary features numerous interviews with Alabama state and business leaders, including Governor Kay Ivey.

“The Alabama School Readiness Alliance is excited to partner with the Alabama Association of School Boards, the Business Council of Alabama, and PNC Bank to bring these important films to Alabama,” said Allison Muhlendorf, executive director of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance. “The end of the pandemic gives us an opportunity to reverse trends holding our children back, but we will only be successful if we invest early and wisely. The Invest Early Alabama Film Festival will show us how.”

The idea for the film festival evolved out of conversations with members of the Alabama State Legislature. ASRA previously shared highlights from both films with lawmakers on the Alabama House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways and Means Education. Some of the lawmakers planned to host public screenings in their districts before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all in-person events. Since then, ASRA has been working with the filmmakers to procure rights to the films for extended online screening.

In addition to the on-demand showings of both documentaries, ASRA and its partners are hosting a series of virtual “Lunchtime Conversations” throughout the film festival with stars from the films, the state leaders responsible for managing our early childhood system, state lawmakers, and others.

The first conversation, scheduled for January 5 at Noon, will explore the current landscape of Alabama’s early care and education system and how COVID-19 has impacted it. Dionne Rosser Mims, Ph.D., Campus Vice-Chancellor, Troy University, will moderate the discussion. Panelists will include LaTonya Bender, Owner, Trinity Love Center, Bessemer; Lucia Cape, Senior Vice President of Economic Development, Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce; Gail Piggott, Executive Director, Alabama Partnership for Children; and Erin Stephenson, Vice President, Client and Community Affairs, PNC Bank.

Individuals interested in participating in the lunchtime discussions must follow the Alabama School Readiness Alliance on Facebook,, and log on to the platform each Tuesday at Noon.

For more information about the films, trailers, and registration, visit

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 for Children, and VOICES for Alabama’s Children. Visit to learn more.

About Us

The Alabama School Readiness Alliance is a statewide, nonprofit coalition advocating for the expansion of high-quality, voluntary pre-k. ASRA was formed in 2006 as a joint campaign of A+ Education PartnershipAlabama GivingAlabama Partnership for Children and VOICES for Alabama’s Children. ASRA’s mission is to close student achievement gaps by ensuring that all children enter school ready to learn.

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