Montgomery Mayor Steven L. Reed on Thursday continued his stalwart support of Alabama’s world-class, voluntary First Class Pre-K program.

While visiting Providence Early Childhood Learning Academy East, Reed saw First Class Pre-K in action and called for increased investment in the program.

He was joined by Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (DECE) Secretary Jeana Ross, DECE Office of School Readiness Director Barbara Cooper and Alabama School Readiness Alliance (ASRA) Executive Director Allison Muhlendorf to promote the expansion of the pre-k programs to all Montgomery families.i

First Class Pre-K has been ranked as the nation’s best for 13 consecutive years, and Governor Kay Ivey has called for the Alabama legislature in its ongoing 2020 session to pass a budget that includes a $25 million expansion for the pre-k program. This would add 160 new classrooms and enable enrollment for an additional 2,889 four-year-olds statewide. The ASRA is supporting this expansion effort.

“Our vision for A New Montgomery calls for creating opportunity for everyone in our community – a place where everyone has the freedom to live, learn and earn,” Reed said in a statement. “In doing so, we must invest in programs like this and expand the existing footprint so that all four-year-old children living in Montgomery County have access to Alabama’s First Class Pre-K.”

recent study has shown that students who participate in Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program are more likely to be proficient in math and reading. Researchers also found that their work indicated “no evidence of fade out of the benefits of First Class Pre-K over time.”

According to Reed’s office, First Class Pre-K slots are currently available for 40% of four-year-old children in Montgomery. The first-term mayor is partnering with ASRA to expand access to and participation in the program and pre-k in general.

Parents whose child will be 4 years old on or before September 1 can find the link to preregister their child here.

Eligible child care providers — and those who want to become providers — whether it is Montgomery Public Schools, universities, faith-based institutions or other community-based programs, can apply for First Class Pre-K grants through March 13 in an effort to increase access to high-quality, voluntary pre-k classrooms for families in Montgomery and around the state. Organizations interested in becoming Alabama First Class Pre-K providers are also invited to attend an informational workshop with Reed on February 27, hosted by the ASRA. Sign-up access is available here.

Reed has constituently been an advocate for increased access to high-quality pre-k, as demonstrated in his inaugural address after being sworn in as mayor.