Or, to put it another way, children who start kindergarten without the basic skills needed to learn may never catch up. Without that head start, they are statistically more likely to become dropouts and, thus, drains on society.
Alabama has an exceptional pre-K program. Its pre-K standards are high. Alabama’s pre-K teachers are well-trained. The problem is that only about 6 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds are in it.
Why? Because the Alabama Legislature has not financially supported the program the way legislatures in other states have.
Late last year, a task force of advocates, the Pre-K Task Force, put together a modest proposal. Estimating that it would take $125 million to cover the state with a voluntary pre-K program, they recommended that the state allocate $12.5 million per year, adding each allocation to what was allocated before, over the next 10 years. As for the unfortunate children who would be left out as the funding slowly built up, well, that would be unfortunate.
State Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, has proposed something better. He said he expects the pre-K program to get $19 million this year (a 63 percent increase) and $31 million in 2014. Build the funding this way and a statewide pre-K system would soon be in place. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, when Love talks budget, people listen.
It also is encouraging to hear legislators talk about investing in the future at a time when so many talk only of cutting back.
Study upon study has shown that early education pays off in a better-trained workforce, a more vibrant economy and fewer social problems. With economists estimating that state revenue will grow in the coming years, there is no better place for us to invest this money than in our children and the future of our state.
Love is to be applauded for supporting this increase in pre-K funding. This page urges legislators from both parties to join him.