Millions of Pre-K funds needed in East Alabama

Millions of Pre-K funds needed in East Alabama

PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - Alabama's First Class Pre-K program is asking for an additional $16 million to provide education for more students.

Advocates for the program toured several centers in the state to discuss how the money will help expansion efforts.

We met up with some East Alabama advocates as they visited classrooms in Phenix City, AL.

The Phenix City Board of Education and other local advocates say students can greatly benefit from a First Class Pre-K education. Many of their members help to fund programs not covered by the state of Alabama.

"They have been fully supportive of the program here. All the funds we received from the office of school readiness is not enough to run this facility, there are a lot of local funds that are also used," said Randy Wilkes, Superintendent of Phenix City Schools.

First Class means to provide effective, high quality, early childhood experiences through education.

The Alabama School Readiness Alliance and its Pre-K Task Force toured classrooms at the Early Learning Center in Phenix City.

They were able to see some of the real life activities and observe the relationship between students and teachers.

But to provide more services and allow more students in the program, advocates are asking lawmakers to support a  $16 million expansion.

That money will open 155 additional classrooms and help enroll approximately 2,800 more four-year-old in the state.

One parent says her son benefits academically and socially from the program.

"The earlier that you can get started the better. I had my son in school at two. Just building on that they can sore. If you don't start off early then you are going to be playing catch up for the rest of their education," said Dr. Veronica Kirk.

"We want to get more children enrolled. The Alabama First Class Pre-K is exceptional and we just want to make it available for more children so that's where the funding comes in that's so important," said Angi Idel, Director of Phenix City Early Learning Center.

The Early Learning Center in Phenix City has 8 classrooms with a total of 144 children.

With close to 50 children on the waiting list, the center has applied for more grants to add three more classrooms.

More classroom tours were held in Birmingham, Dothan, Huntsville and Montgomery and Robertsdale Friday as part of the state's Week of the Young Child observances.

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