MADISON, Ala. - For 10 years now, Alabama's Pre-K Program has been named the best in the country. The Alabama School Readiness Alliance has been working to expand the program. The non-profit advocacy group invited House Speaker Mac McCutcheon to tour the Madison Pre-K center. ASRA is hoping to get a 20 million dollar funding increase from the legislature.
The Alabama School Readiness Alliance Executive Director, Allison Muhlendorf said studies have shown early childhood education is vital to success. Currently 25 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in Pre-K programs across the state.
Muhlendorf said research reveals 6th graders who went through a Pre-K program tested higher in math and reading compared to others. Alabama lawmakers like Mac McCutcheon are starting to pay attention to the numbers. "The level of funding for Alabama first class Pre-K has grown from 19 million back in 2012 to 64.5 million today," Muhlendorf said.
"It's just been over the last several years we've been able to see an emphasis on early childhood development, and how important that is for having a child be successful in a K through 12 system," House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said.
Earlier this month Muhlendorf and others from ASRA asked lawmakers to approve 20 million dollars to their budget. The money would add another 160 new classrooms statewide. McCutcheon said he can't predict if the funding will be approved, but said lawmakers are in an agreement on the importance of Pre-K.
Muhlendorf said lawmakers have seen the success in the numbers and the tour of the Pre-K centers allows them to see the human side of it. "When they can see it first hand and see the love of learning on these children faces is a game changer," Muhlendorf said.
"If you walk into a classroom it`s almost like the kids are in there playing with building blocks or cutting out letters, but there's a curriculum and lesson plan," McCutcheon said.
McCutcheon said Pre-K is the beginning point of providing a strong work force in Alabama and if we neglect our children then Alabama can't recruit and have economic growth. Muhlendorf said if lawmakers approve the 20 million dollars it will keep ASRA on track to have 70 percent of 4 year olds enrolled into a Pre-K program by 2023.