Parents in Harris County braved the weather Monday night, all for their child's education. About 80 parents lined up outside Pine Ridge Elementary school to snag a spot in the district's Pre-K program, since the program's funding can't meet demands.
Georgia's 'Bright from the Start' Pre-K program is paid for by the Georgia Lottery's Fund for Education. Each year it gives about 67% of the state's 4-year-olds a chance to go to school a year early, but leaves 33% on a waiting list.
Harris County is home to several public Pre-K programs, including 3 classrooms at Pine Ridge. School district officials said its the same story every year, parents lining up to ensure their child gets a spot; a problem that is not unfamiliar to the 'Bright from the Start' program.
"We typically have a waiting list of about 7 to 8 thousand children on the waiting list every year who's parents who apply for the program but there wasn't a slot available," said Susan Adams, the assistant commissioner for the Georgia Pre-K program.
She explained that in 2010 Georgia legislature was forced to cut the Pre-K school year by 10 days to accommodate a loss in revenue, putting expansion on the back burner.
"First we want to bring those things, restore than funding, back in the budget, and then we will look at is there funding available to expand the program to serve more kids," explained Adams.
She added that funding is moving in the right direction, giving credit to an increase in lottery revenue as well as efficiencies within the department.
"But the other thing is as the program becomes more popular and as the quality of the program improves more parents are interested in having their children served."
Not every school district in Georgia that offers Pre-K has the same problem as Harris County. Some are able to offer county funded programs to allow more spots. However, both Harris and Muscogee County said they see more children seeking spots than are available. In Muscogee County children are selected using a lottery process, so lining up, is not necessary.