The First Class Pre-K Program is Alabama's state funded voluntary program for 4 year old children who are residents of the State of Alabama. The program is funded by the Education Trust Fund and the Preschool Development Grant through the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (DECE) Office of School Readiness (OSR). In order to receive funds for a First Class Pre-K Classroom, organizations must first complete an online application. The online application process is currently open and ready for applications. The submission deadline is March 17, 2017.
First Class Pre-K has been recognized by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) as meeting 10 of 10 criteria for the highest quality Pre-K programs. Funding for First Class Pre-K is to (1) provide access for more children to attend high quality pre-K and (2) enhance quality of existing classrooms by providing funding and support to meet the high quality standards. All state funded classrooms receive coaching from specialized coaches to support classroom instruction and Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP). Additionally, DECE monitors help to ensure grant compliance and a high level of accountability for the grant funds.
Alabama's First Class Pre-K is offered in a variety of settings throughout the state. Diverse types of programs in all Alabama counties are encouraged to apply.
The First Class Pre-K grants are intended to supplement existing funding sources and are not to be used to supplant federal funds.
Please note that Head Start funded classrooms will have a non-competitive application process that will open in January, 2017. Please check back here for updates. Head Start grantees will receive direct communication from DECE when the process is open.
To understand required expectations of a First Class Pre-K classroom, please refer to the Office of School Readiness 2016-17 Guidelines and the Alabama Developmental Standards for Preschool Children. You can find these documents on our website under the First Class Pre-K drop down menu at the top of the page.
Grants from DECE for pre-K are not intended to fully fund a classroom; there is a requirement of all grantees to provide additional funds to ensure the highest quality expectations are met.
DECE provides the following levels of funding for grants:
1. Excellence (up to $45,000/ yr). These grants are intended for classrooms which have a primary source of funding such as federal funds, tuition, local or community funds etc. The Excellence grant amount is intended strictly as supplemental to another funding source to help achieve the quality criteria. These grants are awarded on a 3 year cycle.
2. Tiered (ranges from $80,100 - $92,700/ yr and is dependent on free/ reduced lunch population as an indicator of poverty) The Tiered grant amounts are intended to provide the primary fund source for high quality pre-K but still require supplemental funds. These grants are also awarded on a 3 year cycle.
3. New Classroom or Plus (these amounts are either $120,000 or $150,000 depending on identified need of county). These are 1 year grants, and a new application must be made during the first year of operation for either a Tiered or Excellence grant amount. This grant is intended to fund the materials, equipment, furnishings and one year of operation of a pre-K classroom. Supplemental funds are also required.
**All supplemental funds may be in-kind or from other revenue sources. For Tiered and New Classroom/Plus grants, the supplemental funds amount must be at least 25% of the grant award. Excellence grants will require that the grantee provide the funds to equal the amount necessary to fund a high quality pre-K classroom.
To apply online, you will first need to set up an account in the online grant management system. Please click the link below to register your organization. If you have already applied through the system in a previous year, your information will still be in the system. Please only set up one account per organization. Organizations which share the same taxpayer identification number should only have 1 account. Additionally, only 1 application should be submitted per classroom requested. There is a place on the application to indicate if organization is willing to consider an alternate amount if the initial request cannot be funded.
For a link to a recorded instructional webinar with an application overview and instructions to access the application, please click here.
If you have a group interested in an Application Workshop to learn about the process, please contact the Office of School Readiness at (334) 353-2715 to ask about scheduling. We are happy to provide workshops throughout the state.