Grants to fund pre-k programs

Published 8:53 pm Thursday, May 28, 2015

Approximately 3,600 four-year-olds in the state will be able to obtain high-quality and voluntary pre-kindergarten services through new grants.

On Tuesday, Gov. Robert Bentley announced more than 200 grants will provide aid for those looking to participate in voluntary pre-kindergarten.

“The most important part of a child’s education is a good, solid foundation at a young age,” he said. “Our First Class voluntary pre-k program provides that. All children, regardless of where they live, deserve the opportunity to excel.”

The awarded grants will broaden Alabama’s First Class voluntary pre-K program to other institutions like faith-based preschools and childcare centers. The First Class pre-k program is a part of the Office of School Readiness within the Alabama Department of Children’s Affairs. The program aims to provide effective education and quality early childhood experiences to prepare children for learning.

Grants were awarded based on local needs, local demand and assurances of high quality standards at new and burgeoning pre-k sites.

The grants will assist 51 counties in the state, including Dallas County. Selma City School’s Byrd Early Learning Center is a program already funded by the First Class program and the Dallas County School System’s Salem Elementary School received a $150,000 grant to begin its First Class program. New Horizons Educational Center in Valley Grande received $92,700 to continue its program.

Bentley recommended a $10 million increase for the voluntary pre-k program, and the Alabama Legislature approved the increase.

“Only 13 percent of Alabama’s four-year-olds are currently enrolled in the First Class program and that is the reason we need to continue expanding access to this program,” Bentley said. “It is my goal to give more families the option of enrolling their children in voluntary pre-k, and I will continue my efforts to expand access to First Class even more.”