Pelham leaders considering pre-K program

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham City Council member Maurice Mercer and Mayor Gary Waters will meet with several state and school leaders at 1 p.m. on July 25 to learn more about the state’s First Class pre-kindergarten program.

The “roundtable” meeting will feature Mercer, Waters, Alabama School Readiness Alliance Executive Director Allison De La Torre, State Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, and others, according to information released by the city on July 23.

“We have an opportunity to learn from early education experts about this exciting option that would give Pelham students an extra edge to succeed in their academic careers,” Mercer said.

Mercer said he would like to make pre-kindergarten programs “a priority” in Pelham.

Pelham currently is considering breaking away from the Shelby County School System to form its own city school system, and also is considering raising the city’s sales tax by 1 percent to feed a Pelham education fund.

Mercer previously said he would like to “consider all options,” and said he would like to meet with Shelby County School System officials before acting on the city school matters.

Waters previously said he is opposed to forming a Pelham school system now.

“Alabama’s pre-K program has a proven track record. If the best pre-K program is available right here in Alabama, then we should have that program available right here in Pelham for Pelham students,” Mercer said.

Waters said a pre-kindergarten program could be a “great alternative” to forming a city school system.

“We’re bringing in the folks who know more about education than the politicians do,” Waters said. “We can learn from what they have to say. Before we form a school district, we should look at the alternatives, and pre-K seems to be a great alternative.”

State funding for the state’s First Class pre-kindergarten program increased by $9.4 million during the 2013 Alabama legislative session, bringing total funding for the program to $28.4 million, according to a Pelham press release.