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Alabama's efforts to expand pre-K programs across the state are getting national attention.
The Pre-K expansion was highlighted in Thursday's edition of the New York Times. Currently, Alabama is one of only a handful of states that is aggressively pushing for state-funded pre-K programs that would be available for every 4-year-old.
Currently, only 6 percent of 4-year-olds in Alabama are enrolled in a state-financed preschool. The Family Guidance Center of Alabama, which runs three programs in Montgomery, has a waiting list of families seeking to enroll.
"A pre-K education is some of the most important education any child is going to receive," said Dr. Walter White, Executive Director. "There are so many children within Alabama that aren't being able to have access to a quality Pre-K education."
The push to change that is part of a bipartisan effort, with support from a coalition of early education advocates and business leaders. Governor Robert Bentley just called for a $12.5 million increase in the state's preschool budget.
It's an effort supported by key members of the state legislature.
"If we spend the money on the front end, in terms of when they're four and five years old, we won't have to invest that money when they're 18 and 19 years old when they've dropped out of high school and all of the associated problems that come with that," said Rep. Jay Love, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Committee.
The push comes as President Barack Obama travels the country speaking on the same topic at pre-K schools. Part of his second term agenda, when it comes to education, is making preschool available to all 4-year-olds nationwide.
"Let's make sure none of our kids start out in the race of life already a step behind," President Obama said in an address from an early education center in Georgia. "Let's make it a national priority to give every child access to a high-quality early education. Let's give our kids that chance."
The Alabama School Readiness Alliance is leading the charge to increase funding of pre-K programs. Their goal is to bring an increase in funding to $125 million over 10 years.
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