Leading Alabama pre-k program recognized for 11th year in a row

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. -- For the eleventh year in a row Alabama's First Class Pre-K program ranks first in the nation by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Madison City Schools lead pre-k teacher Grace Fleming said being recognized for the eleventh year in a row reinforces the state's dedication to providing a quality pre-k program.

"That pre-k really is successful. It helps children that are not only four and five, but all the way up through high school to succeed," she said.

Huntsville City Schools pre-k teacher Charla Smith said the success of the program stems from creating a strong foundation for the kids.

"When we take them in these early years we have a very strong developmental program to help the whole child. So we're looking at social and emotional development, language development," she explained.

Huntsville's pre-k classrooms are spread throughout all of the schools, while Madison houses them all in one building. Fleming said this layout is what helps with their success.

"It really helps with the collaboration among the teachers. Some people are really stronger in other areas, and really pulling off of each other and getting ideas that you might not have. It might impact a child in a different way than what you would've thought of,"she said.

Alabama's pre-k program is state funded, but the help the school districts are getting is not enough for the amount of kids they are trying to serve.

"We really need more funding from our state in order to be able to provide quality pre-k programs for every child in our city, and every child in this state," said Smith.

The Alabama School Readiness Alliance advocates for expanded pre-k programs across the state. They are working to get all pre-k programs fully funded by the state by the 2022-2023 school year.

Executive Director Allison Muhlendorf said Alabama's pre-k program ranks first in quality, but not quantity.

"The Alabama First Class Pre-K program only reaches 25 percent of four-year-olds in Alabama due to limited state investments in the program," she said.

Muhlendorf said if the state fully funds the program, it's really an investment in Alabama's kids future.

"Every dollar invested in high quality pre-k saves dollars later on when it comes to reducing chronic absenteeism in school, reducing the rate of grade repetition, and leading to higher academic success," she explained.

The Alabama Readiness Alliance has all the information you need to reach out to your legislators if you are interested in making a change. You can click here for more information.