Should city rescue Pre-K?

Published 1:27 am Wednesday, April 18, 2018

City has helped fund Bright Beginnings, which is closing

Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson on Tuesday asked city council members to give consideration to whether or not they want to try help preserve a pre-school program previously run by the Andalusia Housing Authority.

Housing authority board members recently voted to close Bright Beginnings, the Pre-K program originally designed to serve children who live in public housing. The program also accepted children who did not live in public housing and whose parents paid a minimum tuition. Board members cited lack of federal funding, as well as very low participation from its residents, as reasons for closing the program.

“Unless something is done, we will not have a Bright Beginnings program this coming year,” Johnson said. “We’ve been putting $75,000 a year into it, and the budget last year was upward of $120,000. I would like to get y’all’s feedback on what you think we should do.”

Johnson said some of the students served by the program did not live in the city limits, and suggested seeking financial support from the county.

“This (pre-school) is not our responsibility,” he said. “It’s the Housing Authority’s deal. Our only involvement is to appoint members to their board, and help them out from time to time on issues that come up out there.

“If we can keep going and serving students, Housing Authority or not, and we can get some help to raise money, I’m all for continuing to do what we have been doing,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the program started in about 2000, and the city has donated $75,000 each year.

“If you multiply $75,000 by 18 years, that’s a lot of funding,” he said of the approximately $1.3 million the city has contributed. “I need your feedback on whether you’re willing to keep putting $75,000 in.”

He pointed out that there are more pre-K programs in the school systems now, and there also are for-profit pre-K programs.

“Be thinking about it,” he said. “I don’t have an answer for it. I hate to see it dissolve, but we can’t pick up every program that loses its funding. We have other responsibilities and things that needed to be done.”

Superintendent Ted Watson said Bright Beginnings has “one of the nicest facilities around,” and that if there is a question of what to do with the facility, he is interested in the school system using it.