Pre-K program worthwhile for Pike County

Published 3:00 am Saturday, February 4, 2017

One of the 2017 Legislative agenda items set forth by the GOP lawmakers this year lies near and dear to Pike County’s heart.

The item, to prioritize funding for the state’s First Class pre-kindergarten program, likely will face some challenges as lawmakers jockey for limited funds in the peren-nial budget battles.

But it is one program that deserves continued support, as many in Pike County attest.

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The First Class venture provides grants to schools and early education centers throughout the state to fund pre-kindergarten programs for young children who might otherwise not have access to early education.

Here in Pike County, the program has through the years helped fund pre-K pro-grams at OCAP’s Head Start, New Life Christian Academy, Pike County Elementary and Goshen Elementary. The program provides funding for teachers and provides grants to cover the educational costs for the students, helping create programs where none existed before. In Pike County alone, hundreds of young children have benefitted.  Statewide, the program has grown from about 1,000 students in 2005-2006 to more than 14,500 in 2016-2017.

The program is improving education, as well.

According to the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, children in the First Class Pre-K programs test in the 90th percentile for kindergarten readi-ness in four key measures; they test in the 83rd percentile or higher in two others.  In 2015, more than 90 percent of the children enrolled in First Class Pre-K  pro-grams demonstrated significant growth or exceeded developmental expectations in all six areas measured for their age (from social maturity to math skills).

The First Class Pre-K programs are working, and working well. It’s money well spent and an investment in the future of our state’s children.