MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Governor Kay Ivey today announced the first round of new state-funded, high-quality and voluntary First Class Pre-K classroom grants for the 2019-2020 school year; adding 164 new classrooms across 38 counties. The state Department of Early Childhood Education expects to announce another round of First Class Pre-K classroom grants this summer, which will be “awarded based on further evaluation of high-needs areas.”
The new classes are the result of the $26.8 million funding increase for Alabama’s pre-kindergarten program approved by the state legislature this year. The expansion increases the total number of classrooms to more than 1,202 statewide.
In making her announcement, the governor said, “Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is truly the model of the nation. By adding 164 classrooms, we are ensuring more of our youngest learners are getting a strong start to their educational journeys, which will lead them to an even stronger finish in their career.”
According to an analysis of the new classrooms by the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, private providers gained ground compared to previous years. The proportion of First Class Pre-K classroom grants awarded in private child care, nonprofit and faith based programs grew from 9 percent in the 2018-2019 expansion to 14 percent in 2019-2020. A total of 24 private providers were awarded grants in today’s announcement.
The greatest numbers of grants to private providers were awarded in Jefferson County (7) and Mobile County (8). ASRA has been working in these counties with the Bold Goals Coalition of Central Alabama, Childcare Resources and Gulf Regional Early Childhood Services to help private providers learn about and apply for First Class Pre-K grants in order to improve the quality of the pre-k that they are already offering in their communities. ASRA plans to expand this work in the upcoming year to additional counties.
ASRA’s preliminary analysis also revealed that counties already behind in pre-k access continue to struggle. Of the 20 counties* that were behind the statewide access rate of 32 percent of four-year-olds enrolled in 2018-2019, 13 received additional classroom grants, but none were able to catch up to the new projected statewide 2019-2020 access rate of 37 percent of four-year-olds.
“The Alabama School Readiness Alliance thanks the teachers, administrators and leaders who work hard to make First Class Pre-K the nation’s highest-quality pre-k program, and we thank lawmakers for approving funding for expansion. We are excited that a record number of four-year-olds in our state will have the opportunity to attend the program in the upcoming school year,” said ASRA Executive Director Allison Muhlendorf. “We will continue to encourage state leaders to add additional classrooms in areas with the greatest need.”
Click here to review the full list of new classrooms across the state.
*Autauga, Baldwin, Blount, Chambers, Clay, Choctaw, Cullman, Dale, Elmore, Escambia, Fayette, Houston, Jefferson, Lee, Limestone, Lowndes, Mobile, Shelby, St. Clair, Walker