North Carolina Cannot Limit Low-Income Pre-K Enrollment

Jul 29, 2011

By Stephanie Schmit

According to a court order issued by Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. last week, the state of North Carolina cannot limit the number of at-risk children in their pre-kindergarten program, known as More at Four. Despite cuts in state funding, this is a win for early education. This is the first ever state ruling acknowledging the importance of the early years in the education continuum.

More at Four's funding was cut by 20 percent in the 2011 state budget and parents are now required to pay 10 percent of their income as a copayment to participate in the program. As a result of the changes, the program has also taken on a new name. The new program, called NC Pre-Kindergarten, limits the number of at-risk children enrolled in the program to 20 percent of the total enrollment, leaving thousands of at-risk four-year-olds with no pre-k program.  The program had been previously housed in the state's education agency, but is to be moved to the Health and Human Services division that runs the state's child care assistance program for parents going to work or school. 

Last year, More At Four served about 31,000 children. As a result of the cut, the new program's director estimates that about 4,000 fewer children will be enrolled in the program.

A pre-kindergarten program with high-quality standards is one key part of a comprehensive early care and education system that supports the learning and development of children from birth through the age of school entry. It is critical that pre-kindergarten initiatives support the needs of low-income working families.

Judge Manning said that he is confident the state will live up to its constitutional duties to afford every child a good, basic education. In the wake of budget cuts, we hope other states will do the same.

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