NC Supreme Court says Pre-K case now moot

Posted November 8, 2013

— The North Carolina Supreme Court has vacated lower-court rulings calling barriers to access the state's pre-kindergarten program unconstitutional, saying lawmakers have since eliminated those barriers.

In a six-page decision that comes just three weeks after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case, the justices ruled Friday that the appeal in the case was moot.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, who has handled school funding cases for years, ruled in 2011 that the state couldn't restrict access to NC Pre-K. The state Court of Appeals upheld that decision last year.

NC Pre-K enrolled about 25,000 children in 2012, down from about 35,000 in 2010 after lawmakers cut its funding by 20 percent and imposed other restrictions, such as requiring parents to make a co-payment for enrolling.

Lawmakers removed the co-pay and eliminated an enrollment cap last year to address Manning's concerns. The Supreme Court cited those changes in determining "the questions originally in controversy between the parties are no longer at issue and that this appeal is moot."

The court sent the case back to the Court of Appeals to vacate Manning's original order.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a clear affirmation of the General Assembly’s central role in shaping education policy – and the size and scope of North Carolina’s Pre-K program," Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement. "The court’s ruling ensures the Pre-K program will move forward as the legislature intended – with eight out of 10 Pre-K slots serving children who are financially at-risk."

"The order reinforces my own belief that we have taken seriously our constitutional duty to meticulously manage the resources of this state so that every child in North Carolina has an opportunity to obtain a sound basic education," House Speaker Thom Tillis said in a statement.

Education advocates argued that state officials made a promise nine years ago as part of a long-running school finance lawsuit to provide pre-kindergarten classes to at-risk students statewide. Attorneys for the state maintained, however, that there is no constitutional right to pre-kindergarten and that the state only had a goal of providing as much access as possible.

State Rep. Rick Glazier, who has worked on the school finance lawsuit, said Friday's ruling doesn't affect eligibility for Pre-K or the state's constitutional duty to offer classes to needy 4-year-olds.

“This simply deals with the fact the legislature in 2012 undid the controversial statute in which they limited funding and restricted eligibility for Pre-K,” said Glazier, D-Cumberland. “It doesn’t affect the initial larger question ... our mandate still stands."

Requiring the state to open up its pre-kindergarten program to every needy 4-year-old who applies could have cost the state $300 million a year, according to some estimates, which is more than double what the state now spends on it.


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  • Krimson Nov 11, 2013

    Yankee01: "Maybe today's spoiled brats and irresponsible adults should try it!"

    I don't consider the children we are talking about to be "spoiled brats". Far from it, we're talking about the most impoverished children in the State. But you are welcome to your opinion...

  • yankee1 Nov 11, 2013

    t*atts1000 ever wonder how the millions of Americans who built this country managed to survive without pre-k and pre-pre-k and free breakfast, lunch and dinner even in summer? It's easy! They didn't have kids they couldn't afford, they didn't have kids just to get higher benefits and they didn't expect schools to babysit, discipline and feed their kids. They took responsibility for their own. Maybe today's spoiled brats and irresponsible adults should try it!

  • Mom2two Nov 11, 2013

    Absolutely there should be a co-pay, refundable at the end of the year after no more than 5% absences. $25 and no more. There HAS to be some "investment" on the part of the parents.

  • Doubleeagle Nov 11, 2013

    ncbronte, talk to me when NC spending per pupil is on par with other states.

    Ah solves everything.

  • Krimson Nov 8, 2013

    Scuba: "I bet that is EXACTLY what happens"

    We generally agree, but please don't speculate. Do some research...

  • Krimson Nov 8, 2013

    RedDragon: Did you actually read #6???

    6. LONG-TERM BENEFITS OCCUR despite convergence of test scores. As children from low-income families in preschool evaluation studies are followed into elementary school, differences between those who participated in preschool and those who did not on tests of academic achievement are reduced. However, EVIDENCE from both small-scale, intensive interventions and Head Start SUGGEST that despite this convergence on test scores, THERE ARE LONG-TERM EFFECTS ON IMPORTANT SOCIETAL OUTCOMES SUCH AS YEARS OF EDUCATION COMPLETED, EARNINGS, AND REDUCED CRIME AND TEEN PREGNANCY.

    There is plenty of data. If you want more, google "Bartik Duke Pre-K Study" and read how he can show, based on data, that the state of NC stands to gain from an almost 9pt cost/benefit ratio in the investment in these kids.


  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Nov 8, 2013

    mep - "There should not be a taxpayer funded pre-K system... period! Studies show it does not help, and is little more than taxpayer funded daycare."

    I'd love to see the links for those studies.

    All I've seen were done by organized biased against Pre-k education and not open-minded at all.

    If one parent is educated enough to prepare their child for kindergarten, being able to teach them the alphabet, their numbers and how to write their name, and another parent is not educated enough to do so, how do those two children start out equally when they enter kindergarten?

    They don't, and chances are the one who didn't know how to do those things will forever be behind their classmates in learning.

    That's not a good burden to sink on a small child and I can't think of any compassionate human being who would want to do so.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Nov 8, 2013

    lazyrebel - "Someone needs to fire this manning guy. I don't think people have a "right" to an education."

    It's Federal law pal.

    Manning just makes sure it's followed, and he does it very well.

    If it weren't for that Federal law, the poor and uneducated would remain so forever and ever. They'd never come to learn, just like you haven't that a person's name is ALWAYS capitalized.

  • Mon Account Nov 8, 2013

    Someone needs to fire this manning guy. I don't think people have a "right" to an education. I would love to see the state charge for education. IF you can't pay for it. oh well.

    Very lazy, rebel. It's in our state's constitution - easy enough to find out. And we do get charged for it. It's called 'taxes'.

  • mep Nov 8, 2013

    The Federal govt mandated taxpayers support public education from K-12. There should not be a taxpayer funded pre-K system... period! Studies show it does not help, and is little more than taxpayer funded daycare.