Proudly knowing all the words, the children of McKee Pre-K Center in Montgomery last week recited their student creed for State Senator Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery), State Representative Joe Hubbard (D-Montgomery), and State Representative Jay Love, (R-Montgomery): “I believe in myself. I am somebody. I can do anything if I try….”
The bipartisan group of state legislators was on hand to tour the Alabama First Class Pre-K classrooms at McKee and hear a special announcement from members of a statewide task force dedicated to pre-k expansion.
Pre-K Task Force members speaking at the Montgomery event included representatives from the Alabama Association of School Boards, the American Academy of Pediatrics – Alabama Chapter, the Montgomery Education Foundation, the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, and VOICES for Alabama’s Children.
On November 15th, the Alabama School Readiness Alliance (ASRA) held four public events simultaneously in Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile to publicly release the recommendations of its statewide Pre-K Task Force to bring Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary First Class Pre-K program within reach of all families.
“It’s no secret that children who attend high-quality pre-k are more prepared to enter kindergarten ready to learn, read at grade level by third grade, graduate from high school and go on to college,” said Allison de la Torre, ASRA’s executive director. “While participation in First Class is voluntary, it is our hope that the state will grow the program so that any parent who chooses to enroll their children – and best position them for a lifetime of success – will have the opportunity to do so.”
Launched in 2000, Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program has consistently been named the nation’s highest-quality pre-kindergarten program by the National Institute for Early Education Research – a rank it has held for the last six years. But the state-funded pre-k program is only available to 6 percent of Alabama’s 4-year-olds. (See article, al.com)
According to Mike Luce, President and COO of Harbert Management Corporation in Birmingham and a co-chair of the Pre-K Task Force, “this is unacceptable.”
Along with Bob Powers, President of The Eufaula Agency, Luce co-chairs the ASRA Pre-K Task Force that is recommending a total increase in pre-k funding of $125 million in modest, annual increments of $12.5 million over the next 10 years, in order to make the First Class voluntary pre-k program within reach of all of Alabama’s children.
With the common belief that long-term success in the classroom and in life begins with high-quality pre-k, the ASRA task force consists of 38 prominent, statewide leaders from the business, education, medical, legal, philanthropic, military and child advocacy community.
“A significant body of research over the past 40 years shows that children who enter kindergarten ready to learn are more likely to graduate high school, succeed in the workplace and volunteer in the community,” said Jim Hansen, regional president of North Alabama for PNC Bank, who is on the Pre-K Task Force and attended ASRA’s Birmingham event. “A college and career ready workforce is critical to our ability to grow and attract business and industry. It ensures the economic vitality of our state.”
The task force outlines in its recommendation the compelling ripple effect of pre-k education, showing how a small investment today will save the state millions of dollars in future costs by reducing the need for remedial and special education, welfare, social and criminal services. (Source, Dollars and Sense: A Review of Economic Analyses of Pre-K).
After attending the November 15 ASRA events at pre-k centers in Mobile and Montgomery, respectively, State Senator Trip Pittman, chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee, and State Representative Jay Love, chair of the House Ways & Means Education Committee, pledged to do everything they can during the next legislative session to meet the Pre-K Task Force’s funding recommendations.
Links to statewide media coverage at each event location:
- Huntsville (WAFF 48 News) Wardynski to discuss expanding Pre-K education for more students
- Mobile (AL.com/Press-Register) Local lawmakers voice support for expanding pre-K in Alabama
- Montgomery (Montgomery Advertiser) Task force seeks Pre-K funding boost for Alabama children
- Birmingham (AL.com/Birmingham News) Alabama School Readiness Alliance launches 10-year campaign to expand state’s pre-kindergarten program