On April 10, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its publication, The State of Preschool 2011: State Preschool Yearbook, which gives Alabama a perfect 10 out of 10 quality rating for its state-funded, voluntary First Class pre-k program. Upon hearing the news, Governor Bentley took to Twitter to announce his support of the program.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment, and our success is a testament to the dedication of everyone involved,” said the Governor. “The most valuable benefit is that children are more prepared than ever to explore a world of learning.”
The report finds that while Alabama remains a leader in pre-k quality, we rank 33rd in the nation for program access, reaching only six percent of our four-year-olds in First Class pre-k. Many reacted to the report with a call to action to expand state-funded pre-k. “We have a first-class pre-k program, one of the best in the country. Let’s give it first-class funding,” wrote the Birmingham News in an editorial on Sunday, April 15.
A+ Education Partnership is a founding member of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance and serves on the Pre-k Task Force, a group of business, education and philanthropic leaders working to develop a long-term vision and policy recommendations for the expansion of First Class pre-k. Currently First Class serves four-year-olds in a diverse array of settings, including child care, faith-based centers, Head Start, and elementary schools.
Research shows that every $1 invested in high-quality pre-k saves taxpayers about $7 later when students can finish high school and pursue college or a good career. Pre-k reduces the need for remedial and special education, welfare, and criminal justice services. Yet, only high-quality pre-k, such as First Class, is proven to generate such dramatic results.