The Bold Goals Coalition of Central Alabama hosted the inaugural Early Learning Pre-K Forum in an effort to expand the accessibility of community –based First Class Pre-K programs. The forum featured local and state pre-K advocates and educators. In addition, childcare centers were invited to learn about a funding opportunity through the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education to establish First Class Pre-K classrooms.Drew Langloh, President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of Central Alabama, used this as an opportunity to tell the story of the Bold Goals Coalition and how the work of Bold Goals Education and the Early Learning Action Network is a targeted approach supporting the overall objectives and causes of the Bold Goals Coalition.“This is another chance to get us as a group to think about the impact we could have if we harness some of that energy around common goals,” he said. “Collective impact is what moves the needle on issues.”
In May, Governor Robert Bentley announced 155 new First Class Pre-K grants which positions Bold Goals Education and the Early Learning Action Network to help further the advancement of Kindergarten Readiness. The push by Bentley brings the number of high quality, state-funded voluntary pre-kindergarten classrooms to more than 800 statewide. The state of Alabama has been nationally recognized for 10 consecutive years as the highest quality state-funded pre-k program in the country.
“The success of this program is from the grassroots efforts of those in the community,” said Jeana Ross, Secretary of the Department of Early Childhood Education. “Every year I wonder how can they improve, and they do. They improve.”
Going into the 2016-2017 school year, 25% of the state’s four year olds will have access to First Class Pre-K. Advocates are in year four of a ten-year campaign to encourage the Alabama Legislature to fully fund First Class Pre-K by the year 2023.
By the conclusion of the Early Learning Pre-K Forum, pre-K educators and childcare center owners received information about the benefits of establishing a First Class Pre-K Classroom. More importantly, attendees received information on the resources and community supports available through Bold Goals Education to assist them in the process of applying for First Class Pre-K funds.
“The future with the new legislation in the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) is that early childhood education is promoted in a way we’ve never seen before,” said Ross.
The Early Learning Action Network is a sub group of Bold Goals Education working to ensure that every student begins school kindergarten ready. The vision of Bold Goals Education is that every student is on a pathway to becoming a productive individual in a prosperous region by engaging community partners to align Central Alabama’s resources to prepare every student for college, career and life.