Gov. Bev Perdue today called on leaders in the North Carolina House to abandon an effort to deny access for tens of thousands of children to quality early childhood education programs.
On Wednesday--the same day Gov. Perdue announced 2,000 new slots across the state for at-risk 4-year-olds in the state's nationally recognized NC Pre-K program--a draft report by a House select committee surfaced that would deny access for tens of thousands of 4-year-olds currently eligible for NC Pre-K.
"A mountain of research confirms that dollars invested in early childhood education pay enormous dividends," Gov. Perdue said. "We should be working to provide more access to at-risk 4-year-olds, not looking for ways to exclude the children of working families from this valuable program."
Under current guidelines, a child from a family of four with an income of $50,975 is eligible for NC Pre-K. Under the draft recommendations by the House Select Committee on Early Childhood Education Improvement, that threshold would be lowered to $22,350.
Gov. Perdue has advocated expanding early childhood education as the General Assembly's budget has cut funding and reduced the number of slots available. 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." The Judge also directed the state to "provide the quality services of the NCPK to any eligible four year old that applies."
The House's draft recommendations would alter the definition of "at risk" to exclude approximately a third of the current eligible population from NC Pre-K.