MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama First Class Pre-K has been ranked as the country’s highest quality state pre-kindergarten program, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Wednesday.
Ivey said this is the 14th consecutive year that the National Institute for Early Education Research has ranked the program in the highest spot.
“Alabama continues to lead the nation in high quality pre-K,” said NIEER Founder and Senior Co-Director Steven Barnett, Ph.D. “The state has been committed to expanding access and must continue to invest more resources and expand access so more children benefit from this quality program.”
“Alabama First Class Pre-K is once again proving to be successful in providing a solid foundation for our youngest learners to be successful in school and life,” Ivey said. “From our state’s historic investment in pre-K to Secretary Jeana Ross’s unmatched leadership, Alabama is setting the standard for excellence in early childhood education around the country. We can all be proud that Alabama continues to lead the nation in high quality early childhood education.”
In 2019, Ivey recommended and the state legislature approved the largest-ever single year funding increase for the program. Ivey said the funding helped expand pre-k access to more than 38 percent of 4-year-olds in the state. All First Class Pre-K lead teachers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and their salary is in parity with K-3 teachers.
“Now, more than ever, First Class Pre-K has the important responsibility to ensure our youngest learners have a strong start to their educational journey,” said Jeana Ross, Secretary of Early Childhood Education. “With the support of the Alabama Legislature and the strong leadership of Governor Kay Ivey, Alabama continues to lead the nation in growth and quality. Prioritizing a high quality pre-k year has a transformational, positive impact on equity and achievement gaps.”
Nationally, the State of Preschool 2019 annual report, based on 2018-2019 academic year data, finds only one third of 4-year-olds are enrolled in public preschool programs.