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Alabama receives $17.5-million federal pre-K grant

These youngsters are engaged in class activities at Madison City Schools First Class Pre-Kindergarten Center. (RECORD PHOTO/JFD PHOTOGRAPHY & DESIGN)
These youngsters are engaged in class activities at Madison City Schools First Class Pre-Kindergarten Center. (RECORD PHOTO/JFD PHOTOGRAPHY & DESIGN)

MONTGOMERY – The State of Alabama has received a Federal Preschool Development Grant for $17.5 million for expansion of voluntary, pre-kindergarten (pre-K) classes.

“The federal funds will complement the state’s efforts and help Alabama provide high-quality pre-K for every Alabama family more quickly,” according to Alabama School Readiness Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group that works for more pre-K study in Alabama.

The state can renew this grant for up to four years for a total of $70 million, Sharon Willis said. Willis works as at-risk coordinator for Madison City Schools and therefore involved in the grant writing aspect of Madison’s pre-K program.

The Madison district opened the Madison City Schools First Class Pre-Kindergarten Center at 74 Nance Road in August with about 160 students. Assistant principal Angie Bush directs the center.

Any four-year-old student in Madison can apply for enrollment. School administrators use a random drawing to select children who can attend the pre-K Center.

Seventeen other states also received new federal grants for pre-K, including Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee in the Southeast.

Willis said Alabama’s $17.5 grant fund “will be distributed the same way as before through a competitive grant process in high-need communities.” Willis has written grants to the Office of School Readiness (OSR) for Madison’s pre-K center.

“We currently have five OSR grants,” Willis said. “The grants are very competitive.”

“The current First Class Pre-K classes throughout Alabama will continue to receive their grant award to continue operating their pre-K classes,” Willis said. “The programs are required to maintain a high-quality program to continue their grant.”

Alabama has 419 First Class Pre-K classes “in a diverse delivery system (at ) schools, churches, community centers and child care centers,” Willis said.

The alliance estimates that only 12 percent of Alabama families who want to enroll their child in pre-K have access to a classroom. In the past two years, the state legislature has increased pre-K funding by $19.4 million.

Alabama School Readiness Alliance is a joint effort of Alabama Giving, Alabama Partnership for Children, A+ Education Partnership and VOICES for Alabama’s Children.

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