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New First Class Pre-K Classrooms to be Added in 2018-2019 School Year, Including Many in Tuscaloosa - Druid City Living, Tuscaloosa's premier community newspaper.

New First Class Pre-K Classrooms to be Added in 2018-2019 School Year, Including Many in Tuscaloosa

Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education announced on Monday that the state’s First Class Pre-K program will add 107 classrooms to 33 counties this fall. Among them: nearly 50 new classrooms in Tuscaloosa’s city and county school systems.

For a full list of the new classrooms, including those in Tuscaloosa and Tuscaloosa county, click here.

According to the office of Gov. Kay Ivey, the new classrooms will expand access to Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten program to 18,864 children in the 2018-2019 school year, with more than 1,040 classrooms in all 67 counties that will serve 32 percent of eligible four-year-olds statewide.

Monday’s announcement came one week after Alabama First Class Pre-K was recognized by the National Institute for Early Education Research for having the highest-quality, state-funded voluntary pre-k program in the nation.

“First Class Pre-K is a nationally-recognized program of excellence,” said Jeana Ross, Secretary of Early Childhood Education. “The program framework encompasses all aspects of the highest quality early learning experiences that ensure school readiness for children, and this emphasis on quality impacts student outcomes far beyond kindergarten.”

This year, the Alabama Legislature approved an $18.5 million expansion for First Class Pre-K, increasing the 2019 program budget to $96 million – the program’s largest ever single-year increase. In addition to funding new classrooms throughout the state, the Department of Early Childhood Education will continue to ensure pay parity for all First Class Pre-K teachers with the same 2.5 percent cost of living raise as K-12 public school teachers in the upcoming school year.

“Having a strong start to one’s educational journey is critical to having a strong finish when it comes time to enter the workforce,” Governor Ivey said. “Alabama’s voluntary First Class Pre-K program is, without question, the best in the nation. I am proud that we can increase the reach of this important educational opportunity, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature to further expand the availability of voluntary Pre-K.”

In February, Governor Ivey also announced an in-depth study of Alabama third graders that found the state’s pre-k program significantly narrowed the academic achievement gaps that typically exist between children in poverty and their more affluent peers, and between minority children and non-minority children. According to research conducted by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, students who participated in First Class Pre-K are more likely to be proficient in reading and math at every grade level, consistent with the results from previous statewide and national studies.

These outcomes have caught the attention of researchers from Harvard University, who are creating a full-length documentary featuring Alabama First Class Pre-K that will be released nationwide in Spring 2019.

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