The future depends, in large part, depends on having an educated workforce. Educating the next generation can't start too early.
Here's the problem. Right now Alabama has 60,000 children who could be enrolled in a pre- k program. Less than four thousand are because of space.
The need to enroll every one of those children can't be fulfilled without more funding. But the governor and Dr. Bice are committed to taking the next step.
"It would cost about 129 million dollars. But the plan is to phase it in over multiple years," said state Superintendent, Dr. Tommy Bice.
Bice admits it sounds like a lot of money. However, he says not expanding the voluntary pre-k program would cost the state billions in years to come. "The achievement gap for students in poverty begins the day they are born. And without any sort of intervention before they get to kindergarten, the ability to erase that achievement gap, while it is possible, is extremely difficult," he said.
Bice says the state's strategy should be to invest money on the front end of a child's education rather than waiting until it's too late. Governor Robert Bentley has already called on the legislature to do what needs to be done for additional funding in the next budget. "We're going to put twelve and a half million into it this year and each year we're going to increase that. I think it will change all of Alabama, but especially rural Alabama and inner city areas," said Bentley.
Governor Bentley says just six percent of Alabama children are participating in the voluntary pre-k program right now. He says more funding equals more students. That ultimately equals a higher graduation rate for the state of Alabama. "Statistics show that if you have a very good quality pre-k program those children graduate from high school," said Bentley.
Governor Bentley says pre-k programs that awarded grant money will have to show satisfactory results, or else the grant money will be taken away.
The big goal for Alabama is to have a 91 percent graduation rate by the year 2020. Bice wants all students performing at or above proficiency. It's all a apart of his Plan 2020.