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Alabama First Class Pre-K program expands access to 27K children with addition of 96 classrooms

The nationally recognized Alabama First Class Pre-K program will add 96 new classrooms in 35 counties this fall, bringing the number of children having access to pre-K services in the Yellowhammer State to 26,658.

Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education announced Tuesday that funding for the classroom additions will be based on the evaluation of high-needs areas prior to the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year.

The expansion, which is part of the state’s goal of serving 70% of eligible four-year-old children, will increase the number of classrooms in Alabama to more than 1,481.

Additionally, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) announced that Alabama First Class Pre-K had been recognized for the 16th consecutive year as the nation’s highest quality state pre-K program.

In a statement, Ivey reiterated the state’s efforts to bring pre-K services to all eligible families.

“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,” stated Ivey 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 governor’s office noted that while country state funding for preschool declined 3%, Alabama included a $22.5 million increase for the Office of School Readiness in the fiscal year 2023 budget.

Dr. Barbara Cooper, secretary of Early Childhood Education, hailed state leadership’s investment in the Alabama First Class Pre-K program.

“We are excited to serve an additional 1,728 students in our First Class Pre-K program in the coming year,” said Cooper. “We are thrilled that Governor 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.”

She added, “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.”

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL