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Hartselle, Eva, Lacey’s Spring receive Pre-K grants

Published 11:51am Wednesday, June 26, 2013

One Hartselle school and two Morgan County schools have been selected to receive grants to offer pre-kindergarten classes at their schools.

F.E. Burleson Elementary School will receive a $82,800 tiered grant. Lacey’s Spring School got a $120,000 first class plus grant while Eva School received a $45,000 Head Start grant.

The grants announced by Gov. Robert Bentley Wednesday will expand Alabama’s First Class voluntary pre-k program to more schools, preschools, child care centers, Head Start locations and other new and expanding pre-k sites across the state. Grants were awarded based on several criteria including local needs, local demand and high quality standards at the new and expanding pre-k sites.

“Demand for these grants far exceeded our supply, and that’s a testament to the need for expanding access to this program,” Bentley said in a statement. “I want to give more families the option of enrolling their children in voluntary pre-k, and I will continue my efforts to expand access to First Class even more.”

“This program was developed by early childhood education experts from Alabama for the children of Alabama,” Bentley added. “We have Alabama-based guidelines and quality assurances. And by expanding access to this voluntary program, we can benefit more children here in Alabama.”

Alabama’s First Class program is nationally-recognized for its quality. Alabama is currently one of only four states in the country to meet all 10 quality benchmarks established by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

However, only 6 percent of Alabama’s 4-year-olds are currently enrolled in the First Class program. The state also ranks 33rd in access among the 40 states that offer pre-k programs. In order to expand access, Bentley proposed additional funding for voluntary pre-kindergarten in the fiscal year 2014 Education Trust Fund. In May, the Alabama Legislature approved more than $9 million in additional voluntary pre-k funding.

First Class is managed by the Alabama Office of School Readiness. The office is part of the Alabama Department of Children’s Affairs, which is overseen by Governor Bentley.

Jeana Ross, the Governor’s Commissioner of Children’s Affairs, said the demand for expansion grants has been strong in communities throughout the state, and efforts will continue for additional expansion in the future.

“This is the next step in a long-term process of giving more families the opportunity to send their children to voluntary pre-kindergarten,” Ross said. “If parents want to send their children to pre-k, we want them to have that option. We want more children to benefit from the high quality standards that are the basis of First Class. We will work with First Class sites across the state to make sure more children are receiving a quality foundation that will prepare them for success in K-12 school and beyond.”

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