Local and state legislators are participating in learning activities with children, touring various Pre-K programs, and getting a first-hand glimpse of ways centers are supporting early learning as part of Georgia’s Pre-K Week and to celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary.
Nearly 150 state officials, including Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal, will visit some of the approximately 3,900 Pre-K classrooms located in all 159 Georgia counties.
Launched in 1992 for families below a designated income level through Georgia Lottery proceeds, Pre-K is an educational program for 4-year-old children administered by Bright from the Start’s Department of Early Care and Learning. Three years later, the Pre-K program was open to all 4-year-olds, regardless of family income, tripling its size from 15,500 children in 1994 to 44,000 in the following school year.
This year, Georgia will invest more than $300 million to serve around 84,000 young learners, more than 60 percent of all 4-year-olds. In the 2012-2013 academic year, Georgia’s Pre-K Program received 30 percent of lottery proceeds, or $299 million, which is down by 2 percent compared to last school year. State general revenues cannot support the state’s Pre-K program and participating centers may supplement costs of Pre-K but cannot charge tuition.
Gov. Deal made a proposal last year to scale back the state’s Pre-K program in order to keep the lottery-funded Pre-K and HOPE scholarship programs from going broke. The program now operates 170 days per year with a maximum class size of 22 students.
The local Pre-K program at the ELC is funded for 154 children and Head Start is funded for 210 children.
In conjunction with Community Helper Week at Little Caterpillars, Rep. Kidd is scheduled to visit the daycare next week to read to children. The local daycare has been serving Baldwin County youth from six weeks up to age 12 for the past eight years, with the Pre-K program included since 2006.
The National Institute for Early Education Research recently ranked Georgia’s Pre-K Program as one of the top state programs in the nation based on quality standards, teacher qualifications and enrollment.
According to data compiled by Voices for Georgia’s Children, a nonprofit child policy and advocacy organization, approximately 25 percent of Georgia’s children under the age of 6 live at or below the poverty level. The state continues to lag behind the nation in reading achievement and high school graduation.
For more information about Georgia Pre-K Week and the mission of Voices for Georgia’s Children, visit www.georgiavoices.org.
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