Alabama capitol

The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery.

(The Center Square) – National recognition has come to Alabama’s new Pre-K classrooms, Gov. Kay Ivey said.

The governor announced, along with the Department of Early Childhood Education, that the Alabama First Class Pre-K program has received top National Institute for Early Education Research honors for the 16th straight year.

“Alabama’s First Class Pre-K has once again been recognized as a national model for delivering high-quality early childhood education that gives our youngest citizens a strong start to their educational journey,” Ivey said in a release. “I am glad to see that even more students will have access to pre-K next year and look forward to the day that all Alabama families who want pre-K for their children have access.”

The Legislature, according to the release, ratified the budget for the Department of Early Childhood Education, at the governor’s urging, which includes a $22.5 million increase for the Office of School Readiness that administers the program.

According to the release, the program will add 96 new classrooms in 35 counties this fall through the new funding. More classrooms may be added once the program is evaluated in high-needs regions before the 2022-23 school year.

By adding new classrooms, according to the release, access will be expanded to the state-funded, completely volunteer program. The expectation is to reach 26,658 children in the state in the coming school year at more than 1,481 classrooms. The move puts the state closer to reaching its goal of serving 70% of 4-year-olds eligible for the program.

“We are excited to serve an additional 1,728 students in our First Class Pre-K program in the coming year,” Dr. Barbara Cooper, secretary of Early Childhood Education, said in the release. “We are thrilled that Gov. Ivey and our state leaders continue to invest in early childhood education supporting Alabama First Class Pre-K in maintaining all 10 NIEER quality benchmarks for 16 years running.

“Leaders across the state recognize the benefits of high-quality pre-K. Thank you to the organizations within the early learning mixed delivery system who have stepped up to partner with us to provide this valuable opportunity in all 67 counties.”

Associate Editor

Brent Addleman is an Associate Editor and a veteran journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He has served as editor of newspapers in Pennsylvania and Texas, and has also worked at newspapers in Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Kentucky.