New Pre-K Classrooms Open, But Advocates Still Want to Cut Down Wait Lists (WSFA 12 News)

New pre-k classrooms open, but advocates still want to cut down wait lists

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – Hundreds of more kids will have access to Alabama’s pre-k program.

Around 164 new pre-k classes are making their way to Alabama for the upcoming school year. This comes after the state legislature allocated $26.8 million more for the First Class Pre-K program earlier this year. This brought the total amount allocated for the program to $122.8 million.

Lataya Hartwell said she is excited to have her son, Martavious, in pre-k for the upcoming school year.

“He’s kind of like on the shy side so I hope that coming here will bring it out of him,” Hartwell said. “He can be around kids because he is so used to being around mama.”

Allison Muhlendorf is the executive director of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, an organization supporting the program. She said the group wants to see 70 percent of 4-year-olds attending the pre-k program.

“We believe that will be the rate by which all 4-year-olds will have access and there will no longer be waiting lists,” Muhlendorf said.

Last year about about 32 percent of 4-year-olds were in the program. This amounted to 18,000 children on the wait list and around the same number of children in the pre-k program, according to Muhlendorf.

Map by the Alabama School Readiness Alliance shows the percentage of four-year-olds enrolled in the First Class Pre-K program.
Map by the Alabama School Readiness Alliance shows the percentage of four-year-olds enrolled in the First Class Pre-K program.

The group plans to ask the state legislature for more money to eventually hit their 70 percent goal in four years.

Alabama School Readiness Alliance said students in the First Class Pre-K program were more likely to do better in math and reading than those who were not in the program. Advocates continue to say the early years before third grade are critical for a child’s brain development.

Dr. Barbara Cooper is the director of the Office of School Readiness within the Department of Early Childhood Education.

“Our pre-k programs have been designed intentionally to support children with learning. They have numbers centers and literacy centers and puzzles and blocks and opportunities to be apart of careers,” Cooper said.

Pre-k classes are supposed to be up and running no later than Sept. 1, 2019.