MONTGOMERY — U.S. Representative Martha Roby (AL-02) joined advocates for Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary First Class Pre-K program today to celebrate the program’s recent expansion in the River Region.
Today’s celebration was organized by the Alabama School Readiness Alliance. Representative Roby and other city and county officials participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony welcoming students to the new First Class classroom at the YMCA Goodtimes Center, and then toured the Y’s pre-k program. The new classroom at the YMCA Goodtimes Center is one of 816 First Class classrooms across the state serving a total of approximately 14,688 four-year-olds statewide.
“If we’re going to build a world class education system in Alabama, it won’t be from the top-down, but from the bottom-up,” said U.S. Represenative Martha Roby (AL-02). “What First Class Pre-K has proven is that with the proper commitment to quality, our students here in Alabama can have the best education opportunities you could find anywhere. I’m grateful to the Alabama School Readiness Alliance and all of their local partners for the hard work they have put into making sure Alabama children have a strong start. We know Pre-K can make a tremendous difference in student achievement, and that’s why I remain committed to helping more children access high-quality Pre-K.”
For 10 years in a row, Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program, which is managed by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, has been ranked the number one pre-kindergarten program in the country for quality. The program receives $64.5 million in state investments, and is augmented by a federal Preschool Development Grant.
In Montgomery County alone, there are 39 First Class classrooms serving approximately 702 children. The percentage of four-year-olds served in Montgomery is 23 percent, slightly lower than the 25% statewide enrolled in the program. Montgomery is one of the target counties for expansion in the federal grant.
“As a cause-driven organization, we seek to jump in and fill gaps in our community,” said Jeff Reynolds, Senior Vice president, YMCA of Greater Montgomery. “We are delighted to have the staff and building capacity to be able to serve the community in this way.”
The Alabama School Readiness Alliance and its Pre-K Task Force are leading a ten-year campaign, now entering into its fifth year, to fully fund Alabama’s high-quality and voluntary First Class Pre-K program while maintaining the program’s strong benchmarks for quality and accountability. The Pre-K Task Force, which consists of 51 prominent leaders from the business, education, civic, medical, legal, philanthropic, military and child advocacy communities, first proposed expanding pre-k access to all families in 2012. The Task Force’s recommendations have been updated annually since then.
In addition to the increased funding, the Task Force recommendations include: continuing the “diverse delivery” of First Class Pre-K classrooms in both public and private programs, including childcare, and faith-based centers; continuing to require that all First Class Pre-K providers adhere to the program’s quality standards; and, prioritizing new classrooms for students most at-risk of school failure.
“Over the last four years, Alabama’s leaders have prioritized the expansion of Alabama’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program, while maintaining the programs high benchmarks for quality,” said Bob Powers, president of The Eufaula Agency and the co-chair of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance’s statewide Pre-K Task Force. “Alabama has been able to complement state funds with a federal preschool development grant to help the program reach more children. This investment is paying off. First Class Pre-K alumni are ready for kindergarten and are outperforming their peers throughout their educational careers. But, unfortunately, too many students are unable to participate because the program is not yet fully funded. We are grateful that Representative Roby and state and local officials are interested in learning more about First Class Pre-K and what needs to be done to ensure that every Alabama family that wants to enroll their four-year-old in the program can have the opportunity to do so.”
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.