DECATUR, Ala. – Big changes are proposed for Alabama’s Head Start programs.
With Alabama excelling nationally in pre-k programs, the two are tailoring their programs to enhance early education rather than take away from one another.
It also means some closures in north Alabama.
So Head Start is taking a proactive stance to continue its role in early education.
Leaders have proposed closing 22 classrooms and catering to 3 year olds.
Head Start used to hold a monopoly on early child education in the state. Programs serve 15 counties in with 162 classrooms for 3, 4, and 5 year old's who qualify with low income families.
"In the last couple of years though there's been a shift and that shift has been more money in Alabama pre-k classrooms,” explained Community Action Partner CEO, Michael Tubbs. “That's good for the children of Alabama and that's good for Alabama."
This has shifted many eligible Head Start children to the state program. There is also a federal push to improve the cost per child in the non-profit to better reflect the quality of the program.
"The wind is blowing towards Head Start becoming more like a 3 year old program and if that happens you have to reduce to 17 kids in a classroom," explained Tubbs.
Currently there are 20 kids per classroom.
Head Start also plans to shift to more heavily populated areas to fill classrooms.
Proposed closures in our area include; four in Jackson County, three in Cherokee, and five in Cullman County.
There are areas that have received funding for pre-k programs and Head Start is helping those families now.
"Let’s go ahead and introduce you to those folks right now and get your kids on the waiting list," said Tubbs.
The non-profit also plans to increase teacher salaries to be more competitive with pre k programs and retain quality teachers.
Overall, these changes are to best serve the children of Alabama.
"The earlier you can serve a child and the family, the better school readiness you can prepare for," expressed Tubbs.
The proposed changes have been submitted on a federal level and Head Start hopes to know if they are approved by June.
The closures would impact roughly 44 staff members and the non-profit is working to move them to pre-k programs if shut down.