Pew Report: Alabama Leaders Protect Pre-Kindergarten Investments Amid Budget Crisis

Dec 08, 2010, 08:43 ET from The Pew Center on the States

Strong Leadership from Governor-elect Robert Bentley required to prepare more kids for kindergarten

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Alabama's pre-k investments remain at $18.4 million for FY11 as state leaders follow through on a commitment to protect the state's high-quality pre-k program even in a tough economy, according to an analysis released today by Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States.  

Alabama joined states across the country in showing bipartisan support for state-funded pre-kindergarten programs in FY11. Total pre-k investments for all states came in at $5.4 billion, increasing slightly, by just over 1 percent.

Alabama's pre-k program is a critical part of the state's workforce development plan, and the Alabama legislature flat-funded the pre-k program for FY11, even in the face of difficult budget decisions that required cuts to many other programs. Alabama's pre-k program is one of the highest-quality in the country and only one of three programs in the nation that meet all 10 National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) quality benchmarks.

"Investing in Alabama's high-quality pre-k program, First Class, is key to building a robust workforce in the state," said Robert Powers, president of Eufaula Agency, Inc., and chair of the Business Council of Alabama Education and Workforce Development Committee. "Alabama's pre-k program provides the state with a major return on investment. It saves taxpayers money and leads to improved academic outcomes. It will ultimately produce graduates prepared to compete both locally and in a global economy."

Beginning in FY08 and persisting through the economic downturn, Alabama policy makers have largely managed to protect the high-quality but small First Class program, holding steady on their early learning investment in a challenging fiscal climate.

"In Alabama, state leaders have shown bipartisan support for pre-k in very tough times, and incoming policy makers need to do the same," said Marci Young, project director of Pre-K Now. "Governor-elect Robert Bentley will take over one of the highest-quality pre-k programs in the country. With strong support from both parties, the governor should work with the legislature to strengthen this valuable investment."

While the program meets all NIEER quality benchmarks, access is severely limited. Alabama pre-k still reaches only a small number of children. In 2009, the state program served just 6 percent of four year olds.

"Research on the impact of pre-k programs on students' readiness is overwhelming, and we're proud that Alabama's program is known as one of the highest-quality in the country," said Barbara W. Thompson, Superintendent of Montgomery Public Schools. "Protecting and expanding this program as funds become available is paramount to ensuring Alabama's children have the foundation they need to prosper not only in school, but also in life."

The nonpartisan annual report, "Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2011," reviewed action on publicly funded pre-k programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine which legislatures count voluntary, high-quality pre-k among their top education reform strategies.

Research shows that high-quality pre-k helps narrow the achievement gap, reduces grade repetition and special education placements, increases high school graduation rates, reduces crime and delinquency and leads to greater employment and higher earnings as adults.

For more details about "Votes Count," please visit  

Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States, is a leading voice in the movement for voluntary high-quality pre-kindergarten for three and four year olds. Designed as a catalytic ten-year effort to spur growth in an emerging education policy arena, Pre-K Now uses four decades of evidence showing early learning programs help all children succeed to drive policy changes at the state and federal level.

The Pew Center on the States is a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts that identifies and advances effective solutions to critical issues facing states. Pew is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.

SOURCE The Pew Center on the States