United Way of Central Alabama and allies to expand nationally successful Alabama First Class Pre-K Program

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Photo courtesy of the United Way of Central Alabama

This week, an initiative that has helped 11 private childcare centers in Jefferson County receive state pre-k funding is expanding into Blount, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker counties.

Pre-K advocates from across Central Alabama made the announcement at a news conference after a tour of the Trinity Love Center in Bessemer, a recipient of a $120,000 state grant to install a new high-quality Alabama First Class Pre-K classroom/program.

Alabama Program Ranks 1st Nationally in Pre-K Education

For 13 years in a row, the National Institute for Early Education Research has ranked Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program as the number one state-funded pre-kindergarten program in the country for quality.

Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Alabama

New research by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham has found that students who participate in a First Class Pre-K classroom – regardless of demographics, zip code or school – are more likely to be proficient in math and reading than their peers.

The new First Class Pre-K classroom at Trinity Love Center is one of nearly 200 state-funded pre-kindergarten classrooms opening by September 1 as a result of the $26.8 million expansion approved by the state legislature this year.

Before receiving a grant to add a First Class Pre-K program this year, the Trinity Love Center received major program and curriculum upgrades through United Way’s Success By 6 initiative and participated in the Bold Goals Early Learning Action Network’s Expanding Public Pre-K project.

The Bold Goals Early Learning Action Network, convened by Childcare Resources, brings together partners such as Alabama Public Television, United Way Success By 6, the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, and the UAB School of Public Health to support childcare centers in obtaining First Class Pre-K status.

Since the Bold Goals project was launched three years ago, 11 childcare facilities in Jefferson County have received state-funded First Class Pre-K grants. In 2020, United Way of Central Alabama will be expanding the successful Alabama Pre-K program into all five counties within their regional footprint.

You Have to Act

United Way’s Drew Langloh addressing the news conference. Photo courtesy of the United Way of Central Alabama

“United Way has been involved in Pre-K for over 30 years,” stated Drew Langloh, CEO of United Way of Central Alabama. “We have been involved because the evidence is clear – quality Pre-K has long-lasting positive impacts on children when they move through their lives. When the evidence is clear, you have to act.”

Why Pre-K?

According to Allison Muhlendorf, the executive director of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance. 90% of a child’s brain is developed in the first five years of life, so everything that is critical for preparing a child not just in school but in life happens in those early learning years.

“The four-year old year is that last year before kindergarten when you have an opportunity to take advantage of that critical window for brain development. And that is exactly what Alabama First Class Pre-K does.”

Expansion is Beginning

Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

The Bold Goals Early Learning Action Network’s new five-county focus will officially kick off with an informational session for interested childcare centers in the region on Tuesday, September 10 from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. at Childcare Resources (244 W. Valley Avenue, Birmingham, Ala.).

The informational session, which will feature discussions with past participants, will highlight the technical support and guidance the Early Learning Action Network provides participants. Interested parties should contact Catrice Pruitt (catricepruitt@gmail.com) for more information.

Universal Pre-K is the Goal

Langloh concluded, “the goal of this network is universal and full access to quality Pre-K for every child in our community. That is where we are headed.”

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Birmingham, United Way of Central Alabama

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.