MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama is facing a massive $375 million deficit in its education budget for Fiscal Year 2009, but Governor Bob Riley says he's confident there won't be any cuts to pre-K.
Riley was dubbed a "profile in courage" today by the Washington, D.C.-based group Pre-K Now for his support for the program.
He said he's not letting the tight budget squeeze out his hope that funding for pre-kindergarten programs will be increased by $20 million in the 2009 fiscal year.
The added money would allow the state to expand the program to serve 7,600 four-year olds, up from the 2,358 children who are now served with $10 million in funding.
Alabama's state-funded pre-k program has been nationally recognized for its quality, but the state often ranks at the bottom when it comes to availability.
The program now reaches just four percent of the state's 60,000 four-year olds who are eligible.
The House Education Appropriations Committee passed a lean education budget last week that cuts Riley's requested pre-k increase to $10 million and one pending in the Sentate has the same cut.
Still, Riley says he's not ready to give up fighting for the full $20 million increase just yet.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)