Governor Robert Bentley on Tuesday visited Clanton Elementary School's Pre-Kindergarten Program to highlight his support for expanding First Class, Alabama's Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program.
First Class is ranked number-one in the nation for quality by the National Institute for Early Education Research. However, only six percent of four-year-olds in Alabama are enrolled. Governor Bentley is proposing additional funding in the fiscal year 2014 Education Trust Fund to expand access to the voluntary program.
"This is a wise investment that will change the lives of children across the state," Governor Bentley said. "A high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten program gives students a strong foundation. It improves their chances for success in K-12 school. We must give more families the option of enrolling their children in this successful voluntary program."
Currently, the Office of School Readiness is able to offer 217 First Class voluntary Pre-K classrooms. In his Education Trust Fund Budget proposal on February 6, Governor Bentley included a $12.5 million expansion for voluntary Pre-K. This proposal is expected to add at least 125 additional voluntary Pre-K classrooms in Alabama, serving approximately 2,200 additional students. Governor Bentley would like to see additional expansion in subsequent years to give even more families the option of Pre-K enrollment.
Voluntary Pre-K programs are offered through public schools, private child care centers, Head Start programs, universities and community-based organizations. Of the 217 First Class classrooms in Alabama, 102 are located in a non-public school setting.
House Education Budget Chairman Jay Love was among those who toured Clanton Elementary School's voluntary Pre-K program with Governor Bentley Tuesday.
"We have seen positive results among those who have participated in voluntary Pre-K. The continued investment in expanding Alabama's voluntary Pre-K program will yield huge dividends for our children in the near future," Representative Love said.