The federal government is recognizing Springdale schools for its achievement in pre-k classrooms. Thursday, Dr. John King, US Deputy Secretary of Education visited with Springdale’s Pre-K teachers students and administrators.

Secretary King says he was inspired by the school district’s commitment, not only its commitment to serve its students but the parents as well.

“Springdale has a long standing commitment to early learning,” Dr. John King, US Deputy Secretary of Education.

US Deputy Secretary of Education Dr. John King toured Springdale Pre-K classrooms and visited with students and teachers. The district has had its early childhood education program for more than a decade, and King says it’s doing something right.

“They’re very committed to ensuring all the students in Springdale have access to high quality experiences at (age) 3 and 4,” said Dr. King.

“It is a huge honor,” said Darlene Fleeman, Springdale School District Pre-K Director. “It’s just our day-to-day business, but we realize that when we talk to people it’s not the way everyone does it.”

Darlene Fleeman is the director of Springdale’s Pre-K program. She says they work hard to keep learning fresh and interesting. The teachers often mentor University of Arkansas education students and the college students bring new approaches to teaching.

“It’s a partnership, it’s a win for both of us,” Fleeman said.

Fleeman says the Pre-K program started with 160 students 11 years ago. Thursday, it’s grown to more than 1300.

“They are the leaders in Kindergarten and all the way up through elementary school,” said Fleeman. “We’re finding that they’re the stars in those classrooms.”

18 states, including Arkansas, have federally funded Pre-K programs, and Dr. King says President Obama has proposed to add an additional $500,000,000 in funding.

Dr. King said “Because we know there’s an 8-to-1, 9-to-1 return on every dollar invested in early learning.”

He hopes to see bi-partisan support on Capitol Hill, so Pre-K programs like Springdale’s can continue to grow across the country.

“They’re committed and they’re acting on that commitment by really investing in early learning,” said King. “That’s exactly what we hope to see expanded as we go forward.”

A new Pre-K center is set to open next fall behind the existing J.O. Kelly Middle School and will add 16 more Pre-K classrooms.

This story was originally reported by Tevin Wooten. You can follow this report and more at Tevin’s Twitter or Facebook page.