More power to Pre-K

Published 9:04 pm Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gov. Bob Riley’s plan for expanding the state’s Pre-K program did not include Chilton County. There is, however, a Pre-K class already functioning in our school system, at Clanton Elementary School.

Yesterday, Riley announced that 107 new classrooms across the state, serving 1,926 children, will receive funding to become First Class Pre-K sites. These additions bring the total number of children being served by the program up to 3,384.

Grants in the amount of $45,000 will enable 50 classrooms to meet Alabama High Quality Pre-K standards, while 57 classrooms will receive Pre-K State Supported Slots of at least $45,000, with additional funding available based on the number of low and middle-income children being served.

Of the new recipients, 43 are public schools, 36 are private childcare programs, 25 are Head Start programs, and three are faith-based childcare programs.

The program targets 4-year-olds, and provides high-quality pre-k instruction through qualified teachers. The program is economical and available to all children, in all types of childcare programs, including public school systems, private childcare programs, faith-based programs and Head Start programs.

The primary goal of First Class Pre-K is to prepare students entering Kindergarten for success.

A national survey ranked Alabama’s Pre-K program number one in the nation for its high-quality standards. Those standards include small student to teacher ratios, teacher qualifications, professional development for teachers, and total evaluation of the child’s academic, social, and basic health needs.

The Alabama Legislature doubled the funding for pre-K to $20 million. First Class Pre-K along with Riley’s other education initiatives, like the Alabama Reading Initiative, the Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative, and ACCESS Distance Learning, were among the only programs that received increases during this budget year.

It’s a shame Chilton County could not get another Pre-K class this year, but at least more children are benefiting than before.

We hope more of our childcare programs can get the funding to offer this beneficial program in the near future.