Local elected officials and representatives of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance joined Mobile County Public Schools on Tuesday to celebrate the local expansion of Alabama’s state-funded, high-quality First Class Pre-K program with a ribbon-cutting for a new Pre-K classroom at Collier Elementary.
In May, Collier received a $130,000 First Class Pre-K grant to add the new classroom, support lead and assistant teacher salaries, and purchase developmentally appropriate materials. It is the 59th First Class Pre-K classroom in the MCPSS system.
The new classroom was made possible by a $13 million expansion of the state’s First-Class Pre-K program approved by the state legislature earlier this year, combined with funding from year three of Alabama’s four-year federal Preschool Development Grant.
“Having a Pre-K program at Collier Elementary will benefit families in this community for years to come,” said State Senator Rusty Glover, one of several elected officials who toured the new classroom.
“I’m excited we were able to provide funding for Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program to continue to expand in Mobile and across the state,” said State Representative Chris Pringle. “High-quality Pre-K is so important for the educational development of our youth.”
Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is managed by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. For 11-years in a row, it has been ranked the top state-funded pre-kindergarten program in the country for quality by the National Institute for Early Education Research.
“Two years ago, we began a partnership with Alabama First Class Pre-K, and we are seeing positive results,” said Martha Peek, Superintendent of Mobile County Public Schools. “Through Alabama First Class Pre-K, students thrive in a developmentally appropriate introduction to learning that we know will last a lifetime.”
There are 938 Alabama First Class Pre-K classrooms throughout the state, but that’s only enough to enroll approximately 28 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds.
In 2012, the Alabama School Readiness Alliance’s business-led Pre-K Task Force launched a 10-year campaign to advocate for incremental increases in First Class Pre-K until the program is fully funded in the 2022-2023 school year. ASRA has estimated that the state would need to appropriate a total level of funding of $144 million to give every Alabama family the opportunity to voluntarily enroll their four-year-old in a First Class Pre-K program.
“Students who participate in Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program outperform their peers in reading and math in every grade,” said Allison Muhlendorf, the executive director of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance. “State lawmakers have made it clear that giving more families an opportunity to participate in the Alabama First Class Pre-K program is a priority. It is crucial that leaders continue to increase First Class Pre-K investments until every family across Mobile and the state of Alabama has access to this proven program.”