An education task force will present a 10-year plan to the Legislature to make state-funded pre-kindergarten programs available to all 4-year-olds in Alabama, according to an Alabama School Boards publication.
The Legislature convenes Tuesday but it hasn’t been determined when the issue will be addressed.
First Class, which would govern the pre-K program, is a voluntary program that is funded at approximately $19 million for fiscal year 2013.
“Support for state-funded high quality pre-K is at an all-time high,” said Allison de la Torre, executive director of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance.
The alliance has formed a pre-K task force that represents business, industry and community leaders.
The Task Force plan calls for an annual investment in First Class of an additional $12.5 million each year for 10 years beginning in fiscal year 2014, resulting in full funding of the program at approximately $144 million by fiscal year 2023, the target date for making the program available to 4-year-olds whose families choose to enroll them.
Colbert County has six state-funded pre-K programs; Lauderdale County has seven and Franklin County has five.
Local directors express confidence the proposed plan will be well received.
“We’ve really been encouraged that the plan is really going to take off,” said Jacque Jefferys, director of the Northwest-Shoals Community College Child Development Center pre-kindergarten program.
In its 12th year, the Northwest-Shoals program was among the first in the state. Jefferys said she’s seen the pre-K concept be embraced and programs flourish.
“The situation now is that if children don’t have access to pre-K, they start kindergarten behind,” she said. “We’re preparing these children for kindergarten, not just academically but socially and emotionally. It’s not child care. It’s child preparation.”
Jeana Ross, the commissioner of the Office of School Readiness in Montgomery, said there are 217 programs around the state, with each class serving 18 children. That number could skyrocket as early as next year.
Ross said the plan has been thoroughly configured.
“We just wanted to make sure that if this happens, we won’t be sacrificing quality for expansion,” she said.
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com.