ROSWELL, Ga. - Dozens of north Fulton County parents spent hours lined up outside hoping to enroll their child in a Roswell pre-kindergarten program.
More than 30 parents were in line Wednesday for just 17 openings at Roswell’s Young Life Academy, a Georgia Lottery-funded pre-K program. Thousands of parents who want to get their kids in pre-K are turned way each year due to a lack of funding.
“We've been in line since 6 a.m. yesterday morning to get into the Georgia pre-K program here,” Renee Fields said.
Some said it was the second or third time they waited in line to win a pre-K slot.
“It’s worth it,” parent Amaya Burch said.
There are 84,000 Georgia children enrolled in lottery-funded pre-K programs, but that’s just 60 percent of 4-year-olds in the state. Advocates for early childhood education believe Wednesday’s turnout shows the need for more funding for quality pre-K programs.
“We typically have about 10,000 children a year on a waiting list for those pre-K slots,” said Stephanie Blank, chair of the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students.
“Things like the waiting list, things like funding battles each year really highlight the work that we continue to need to do in this state to make this a priority. We shouldn't need to have this battle every year,” Blank said.
About 32 cents of every dollar raised from the Lottery goes to pre-K programs. Blank said increasing that by just a few percentage points could help ensure all kids who want slots could get them.
Studies show kids who start kindergarten without having had pre-K sometimes don't catch up to kids who did have pre-K.
“If you take 50 kids who aren't ready, 44 of them will still be behind in their grade,” Blank said.
Blank’s group believes one option for legislators to consider might be diverting some money from the HOPE scholarship toward early childhood education, which could be controversial.