PR: NC gov sends letter today to state legislative leaders requesting implementation of pre-kindergarten court order

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From the State of North Carolina Office of Gov. Bev Perdue, shared Oct. 10:

RALEIGH—Gov. Bev Perdue sent a letter today to leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly today requesting that the General Assembly take a first step in implementing a court order regarding NC Pre-K.

The governor requested resources to enable 6,300 additional at-risk students to enroll in NC Pre-K starting in January 2012.

“Not only are we under a court order to provide NC Pre-K services to every at-risk child who applies, but we know that investing in early childhood education pays dividends,” Gov. Perdue said. “NC Pre-K is a nationally-recognized academic prekindergarten program that benefits not just each individual child served, but the state’s education system as a whole. This is because when all students enter elementary school ready to learn, all children have a better chance to succeed in school and in life.”

On July 18, 2011, North Carolina 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.” Judge Manning reaffirmed that ruling last month.

On Aug. 11, 2011, Gov. Perdue issued an Executive Order, which directed the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a plan for how to serve all eligible at-risk four-year-olds.

Gov. Perdue supports an incremental and fiscally responsible approach to complying with Judge Manning’s order.

“We can’t flip a switch,” Gov. Perdue said. “We must implement Judge Manning’s order in a prudent, fiscally responsible way.”

DHHS determined that North Carolina can serve an additional 6,300 children this year and still meet the high quality academic standards that Gov. Perdue and Judge Manning require. The increased enrollment would bring the total number of children served this year roughly back to the number served last school year.

DHHS estimates that it will cost approximately $30 million to serve 6,300 additional children starting in January 2012. Gov. Perdue identified existing funds that the General Assembly could use without raising taxes, without putting the budget out of balance and without damaging critical priorities.

She made clear, however, that she would be open to discussing other sources for the funding as long as the funds would not be taken from other education needs, including Smart Start, K-12, community colleges and public universities.

Gov. Perdue identified the $30 million from the following sources: $27 million from funds that the are on the “bottom-line” after the close out of the Fiscal Year 2011 budget (i.e., funds that the state anticipates it will collect but have not been appropriated for any purpose); and $3 million from the Contingency and Emergency Fund.

Editor’s note: Here is a copy of the letter Gov. Bev Perdue sent today to state legislative leaders about NC Pre-K and the related North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services plan for NC Pre-K, also released today.

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Kathleen O. Davis

Kathleen O. Davis is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press. Contact her at kathleenodavis@gmail.com.

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