The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

Alabama First Class Pre-K named nation’s highest quality pre-kindergarten program for 12th consecutive year

(ASRA)

Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary First Class Pre-K program was today named the highest quality state-funded pre-kindergarten program in America. This is the 12th year in a row the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds has received this distinction.

The title was bestowed upon Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program by the National Institute for Early Education Research in its 2017 State of Preschool Yearbook. The State of Preschool Yearbook is an annual report measuring the quality of state-funded early childhood education programs across the country. In this year’s report, NIEER’s 15th edition, Alabama was one of only three states, along with Michigan and Rhode Island, to meet or exceed all ten of the benchmarks NIEER measures to determine program quality.

In its report, NIEER also featured Alabama as one of six states to watch. NIEER profiled the state’s sustained commitment and incremental approach to giving more families an opportunity to voluntarily enroll their four-year-olds without lowering the pre-k program’s quality standards.

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Advocates from the Alabama School Readiness Alliance welcomed today’s announcement.

“NIEER’s endorsement of the state’s voluntary First Class Pre-K program is another sign that the investments state leaders have made in early childhood education will have a strong return,” said Allison Muhlendorf, the executive director of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance. “However, being number one in the nation for quality should be only half of the state’s goal. State leaders should also strive to also be number one in access for four-year-olds.”

Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is managed by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.

The 2017 State of Preschool Yearbook looks at pre-kindergarten programs operating during the 2016-2017 school year. That year, approximately 14,688 four-year-olds were enrolled in a First Class Pre-K classroom. State leaders have since grown the program to nearly 17,000 four-year-olds. Governor Ivey recently signed into law an additional $18.5 million expansion for next year that, combined with year four of Alabama’s four-year federal Preschool Development Grant, will further increase the size of the program.

In addition to NIEER’s findings, a recent study of Alabama third graders found that students who voluntarily participated in the state’s high-quality First Class Pre-K program are more likely to be proficient in reading and math than their peers. The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama in conjunction with the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Among the findings, researchers observed that First Class Pre-K

— Narrowed the gap in reading proficiency by 28 percent for all children in poverty; 32 percent for White children in poverty; 31 percent for Hispanic children in poverty; and, 26 percent for Black children in poverty.

— Narrowed the gap in math proficiency by 57 percent for all children in poverty; 71 percent for Hispanic children in poverty; and, 37 percent for Black children in poverty.

— Increased reading proficiency for children in poverty by 12 percent overall; 25 percent for Hispanic children in poverty; 23 percent for Black children in poverty; and, 3 percent for White children in poverty.

— Increased math proficiency for children in poverty by 13 percent overall; 17 percent for Hispanic children in poverty; 16 percent for Black children in poverty; and, 10 percent for White children in poverty

A complete breakdown of the research on Alabama First Class Pre-K outcomes can be found here: http://www.alabamaschoolreadiness.org/alabama-pre-k-results/.

The Alabama School Readiness Alliance advocates for the expansion of high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten. ASRA works to ensure that pre-k is a continuing priority for Alabama’s children, parents, community leaders, legislators and governing officials. ASRA is a collaborative effort of A+ Education Partnership, Alabama Giving, Alabama Partnership and VOICES for Alabama’s Children. Visit www.alabamaschoolreadiness.org to learn more.

Alabama State Legislature approves $18.5 million pre-k expansion

(Pixabay)

The Alabama Legislature last week inched a step closer to providing high-quality pre-k to every family in the state that wants to voluntarily enroll their four-year-old.

The legislature gave final approval to the HB 175, the FY 2019 Education Trust Fund Budget. The bill appropriates a total of $96 million to the state’s pre-kindergarten program; $18.5 million more than the program’s current funding level.

Once signed into law, the $18.5 million expansion, along with funding from the final year of the state’s four-year federal Preschool Development Grant, would enable the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, which manages the First Class Pre-K program, to add at least 100 new classrooms. This would allow at least 1,800 additional four-year-olds to enroll in the state’s high-quality, voluntary First Class Pre-K program in the 2018-2019 school year.

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Advocates from the Alabama School Readiness Alliance and its Pre-K Task Force, a coalition of more than 40 prominent leaders from the business, education, civic, medical, legal, philanthropic, military and child advocacy communities, estimate that it would take an annual appropriation of $144 million to provide high-quality, voluntary pre-k to every family in the state that wanted to enroll their child. Today’s legislative action means that Alabama is on track to forseeably reach this goal within the next few years.

“Research released last month reaffirms that students who participate in Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary First Class Pre-K program outperform their peers in reading and math; however, too few four-year-olds are able to participate because of a lack of funding for the program,” said Mike Luce and Bob Powers, the co-chairs of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance’s Pre-K Task Force. “The state legislature today voted to give more families an opportunity to enroll their children in First Class Pre-K. We applaud their commitment to expanding Alabama’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program and we encourage state leaders to continue to make pre-k investments a priority until the program is fully funded.”

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 number one state-funded pre-kindergarten program in the country for quality by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

There are currently 941 Alabama First Class Pre-K classrooms located in various public and private schools, child care centers, faith-based centers, Head Start programs, and other community-based preschool settings. However, that is only enough classrooms to enroll 28 percent of four-year-olds across the state.

A recent study of Alabama third graders found that students who voluntarily participated in the state’s high-quality First Class Pre-K program are more likely to be proficient in reading and math than their peers. The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama in conjunction with the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Among the findings, researchers observed that First Class Pre-K:

— Narrowed the gap reading proficiency by 28 percent for all children in poverty; 32 percent for White children in poverty; 31 percent for Hispanic children in poverty; and, 26 percent for Black children in poverty.
— Narrowed the gap in math proficiency by 57 percent for all children in poverty; 71 percent for Hispanic children in poverty; and, 37 percent for Black children in poverty.
— Increased reading proficiency for children in poverty by 12 percent overall; 25 percent for Hispanic children in poverty; 23 percent for Black children in poverty; and, 3 percent for White children in poverty.
— Increased math proficiency for children in poverty by 13 percent overall; 17 percent for Hispanic children in poverty; 16 percent for Black children in poverty; and, 10 percent for White children in poverty.

A complete breakdown of the research on Alabama First Class Pre-K outcomes can be found here.

The Alabama School Readiness Alliance advocates for the expansion of high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten. ASRA works to ensure that pre-k is a continuing priority for Alabama’s children, parents, community leaders, legislators and governing officials. ASRA is a collaborative effort of A+ Education Partnership, Alabama Giving, Alabama Partnership and VOICES for Alabama’s Children. Visit here to learn more.