Gov. Bev Perdue announced this morning that her administration will create 2,000 additional slots this year in NC Pre-K classrooms across North Carolina.
Gov. Perdue has identified $9.3 million that will allow the additional at-risk 4-year-olds to attend NC Pre-K.
"NC Pre-K is a nationally recognized, academic program that helps prepare children to succeed in kindergarten, throughout school and in life," Gov. Perdue said. "This additional investment in our children will pay big dividends for all North Carolina because these children will be less likely to fall behind and drop out later in life."
The 2,000 additional slots represent the number of children that could be served immediately with available funding. The children would attend NC Pre-K from mid-March through mid-August, at which point, they will enter kindergarten. Local administrators have a process in place to determine which children will be placed in Pre-K programs.
Gov. Perdue has advocated expanding NC Pre-K as the General Assembly's budget cut funding and reduced the number of slots available to at-risk four-year-olds. In July, Superior Court Judge Howard Manning issued an order in which he said that "[t]he State of North Carolina shall not deny any eligible at-risk four year old admission to the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten Program (NCPK)." The Judge also directed the state to "provide the quality services of the NCPK to any eligible four year old that applies."
Gov. Perdue had previously identified a fiscally responsible first step toward implementing the judge's order that would have served an additional 6,300 children without raising taxes or making further cuts to education. The General Assembly has not acted on the Governor's recommendations.
"All children in North Carolina, regardless of where they live, deserve a chance at a successful future and we know that NC Pre-K changes lives," Gov. Perdue said. "We have one shot to give these children the benefit of Pre-K. They can't wait, and we can't either."
Research by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC-CH has shown that children who attended NC Pre-K have significantly higher end-of-grade test scores in 3rd grade than similar children who did not have the benefit of the program.
Each year, approximately 67,000 at-risk four year olds in NC are eligible for the program. Current funding provides service for approximately 24,700 children.
The additional funding for the 2,000 new slots will come from child care subsidy funds on a one-time basis to meet the urgent need of at-risk children who are not currently served by NC Pre-K.