HANCEVILLE, Ala. — In Governor Robert Bentley’s inauguration speech and President Barak Obama’s State of the Union, both mentioned the importance of early childhood education and providing affordable childcare for working families.
“We will work to give young children a ‘new, strong foundation’ with the opportunity for a good education in a voluntary Pre-K program,” Bentley said. “At the end of the next four years we will be able to tell every parent in Alabama, there is a Pre-K classroom available for your child.”
“We need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever,” Obama said, while touting his middle class economics plan. “It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must have. It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a woman’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.”
Near the end of 2014, the White House announced $1 billion in funding in government, public and private support for early childhood education programs. Included in that amount is $750 million in federal investments for preschool development grants and expansion of the Early Headstart program.
The state of Alabama was recommended to receive $17.5 million in preschool development grants, which will support the state in building or enhancing preschool program infrastructure. That would enable the delivery of high-quality preschool services to children and expand preschool programs in targeted communities that would serve as models for expanding preschool to all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families.
Bentley has indicated he will keep proposing increases in the annual budget to expand the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds, providing every parent who wants to enroll their child the opportunity to do so.
Those commitments to early childhood education are music to the ears of Marcie Hill, program director of Wallace State Community College’s Child Development program.
“The recent news of the increase in funding for Pre-K for our state was very exciting to me,” Hill said. “Every 4-year-old deserves the chance to attend a quality program to better be prepared for the rigor of today’s kindergarten.
“The earliest years make the largest difference in a child’s education,” she continued. “In fact, research has shown that those who are able to attend a high quality Pre- K do much better for many years in school than those who do not get the opportunity.”
Hill is hoping with political leaders focusing on Pre-K and childcare, that there will be more opportunities for families needing quality childcare.
“My hope is that the new sites will be placed in counties where the need is the greatest to better equalize access across the state for all children,” she said. “Right now Cullman County has only four First Class Pre-K locations: Jones Chapel, Welti, Hanceville, and Garden City which includes access for only 90 children.”
Hill encourages those interested in providing more access to Pre-K classes apply to be a First Class Pre-K location, but the deadline is approaching. Go to http://children.alabama.gov/first-class for more information.
With an increase in opportunities for childcare there will come an increase in the need for early childhood educators and caregivers.
“For those interested in making a positive impact in the life of a young child, teaching can be the most rewarding career of all,” Hill said. “There’s nothing better than knowing that you have made a positive difference in a child’s life.”
Teaching in a Pre-K site does require a bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education for a lead teacher position, Hill said. To become an assistant in a Pre-K site, those interested need a Child Development Associate (CDA), at least nine hours of approved coursework, or an associate degree in child development. The increase in funding could mean more job opportunities both for those who hold a bachelor’s in Early Childhood and for those who’ve earned a CDA or associate degree in Child Development.
“The Child Development Program at Wallace State can certainly help anyone interesting in being qualified to teach in preschool,” Hill said. “You can earn an associate degree in only five semesters or take courses toward your CDA. Our Associate in Applied Science Degree in Child Development will qualify those interested for a teacher’s assistant position at any of the Pre-K sites and many of our classes transfer to other institutions toward a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.”
The Child Development Program at Wallace State is now offering courses online. Summer applications are now being accepted. For program applications and more information about the Child Development Program at Wallace State, visit the newly updated website at http://www.wallacestate.edu/Programs/Health-Division/Child-Development/index or contact Marcie Hill at 256-352-8383.
“I hope you will choose to be a part of making the difference in the life of a child by joining the Child Development Program at Wallace State,” Hill said.