In Alabama, 6 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in a state-funded early learning program and 2,294 children under the age of three are enrolled in Early Head Start. This number is steadily increasing as early childhood education has been championed by Gov. Robert Bentley and supported by the state legislature this year. Today, Alabama remains one of only four states that meet the 10 quality benchmarks in early childhood education established by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). Additionally, the average annual cost of center-based infant care is amongst the lowest in the country at $5,467.
- What the Governor is saying: In his State of the State address on January 14, 2014, Gov. Robert Bentley emphasized the importance of early childhood education in Alabama saying, “There is no greater opportunity we can give an Alabama child in poverty than a chance to excel in school. So many of our children need this opportunity – but too few have access to it. The earlier they begin receiving a quality education, the better chance they have at success.”
- What’s happening in the legislature: In April 2014, Gov. Bentley and the Alabama legislature approved a state funding increase of $10 million for Alabama’s voluntary First Class Pre-K program. Approximately 1,800 more four-year-olds will be able to participate in the program.
- Funding increases: In the last two years, Alabama lawmakers have more than doubled the amount of funding for First Class Pre-K, a voluntary, high-quality early learning program available to 4-year-olds in the state, from $19.1 million to $38.5 million. The funding has increased access to the program by more than doubling the number of classrooms available in the 2014-2015 school year to 410, which will serve around 13 percent of 4-year-olds statewide. The Alabama Department of Human Resources also received a $1.7 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that will be used to strengthen the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System.