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First Class Pre K children consistently miss fewer days of school, they are less likely to need Special Education services and are less often retained than those children who are not in Pre K.

Third-graders who were in Pre K scored at 100% Reading Proficiency.(asterisk) But the most significant result of children in Pre K is the impact on those who live in poverty, from low-income families.

Pre K closed the achievement gap for lower income students by as much as 29%.(asterisk)

Because of these proven results, I’m including more funding for voluntary Pre K in my budget, so that we can once again expand.

(PAUSE)

Nothing is more important to a child’s education than their teacher.

And I truly appreciate the sacrifices our teachers have made.

Last year Alabama teachers received a 2 percent increase in pay.

This year I am proposing another 2 percent increase for teachers - and support personnel.

State employees have also made sacrifices that have enabled us to balance our budgets.

That is why I lifted the merit pay freeze on state employees two weeks ago. We are still optimistic and if the money is available, will propose a conditional pay raise up to 4% for state employees.

(CLOSE)

We’ve assembled in this Chamber tonight, marking the beginning of another Session of the Alabama Legislature. And most of us in this room have one thing in common: We have been chosen by the men and women of this state to serve our fellow citizens.

We have been elected - chosen - charged with the task of making our state better than it was when we first came into office. We have been all placed here to create opportunity, not just for the men and women of one county or one district, but for the over 4-million Alabamians who make our state so great.

Wilcox County, Alabama - the poorest county in the United States hasn’t seen a new major industry since man set foot on the moon.

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