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Poll shows support for more pre-k in state, education advocates say

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Early education advocates are urging legislators to increase funding for pre-kindergarten education and released the results of a poll Tuesday showing the majority of Alabamians are behind them.

The supporters gathered at the Statehouse during one of several events for "Power Day for Pre-K" on Tuesday.

"These two nationally known pollsters have surveyed voters' opinions on pre-k in eight other states and found that Alabama's voters showed greater support for state-funded pre-k than any other state, except North Carolina," Alabama School Readiness Alliance project coordinator Criss Hopson said in a statement.

"We know that high quality pre-k programs help children succeed in school and in life, and this poll shows that Alabama voters understand that as well."

The alliance commissioned the survey of 604 voters in December. It found that 57 percent of the voters surveyed thought education should be the top priority for the state to focus on and 75 percent thought that only half or fewer Alabama children start kindergarten with adequate skills.

A majority — 87 percent — believed that four-year-olds who spend time in a pre-k program do better in school and 61 percent thought Alabama government officials aren't doing enough to fund early education.

A recent report by the National Institute for Early Education Research named Alabama one of only two states in the nation to receive the top score for the quality of its state-funded preschool programs.

But the same report placed Alabama near the bottom for the number of children actively enrolled in the state's preschool program. Current state funding, at $4.3 million annually, supports the operation of 59 preschool sites with capacity to serve only 1,080 4-year-olds statewide.

"Alabama is setting the standard for quality pre-k programs in this country, which shows what incredible public support can create for children," said Libby Doggett, Ph.D, Executive Director of Pre-K Now in Washington, D.C. "This poll should be a clear signal to state legislators that now is the time to expand pre-k so more children have the opportunity to start kindergarten prepared for success in school and in life."

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On the Net

The poll is available at www.alavoices.org.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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