@NCCapitol

As money opens more pre-K slots, GOP looks to limit eligibility

Posted February 22, 2012
Updated February 23, 2012

— Gov. Beverly Perdue said Wednesday that she has found enough money to open an extra 2,000 slots in pre-kindergarten classrooms across North Carolina, but lawmakers have drafted legislation that would tighten up eligibility rules for the program.

Perdue said $9.3 million in federal money used to subsidize child care would be shifted to pre-K programs statewide. Wake County would gain 300 slots, officials said.

"We can do this for our children. We can assure in some small way that they have an opportunity to be somebody in North Carolina," she said while mingling with students and teachers at Happy Face Preschool in Raleigh. "We know that North Carolina Pre-K makes a long term difference in a child's life." @NCCapitol @NCCapitol

About 67,000 children statewide are eligible for such classes each year, but funding provides enough space for only 24,700.

Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, said one way to address the long waiting lists is to make fewer children eligible.

"We're trying to make sure with the funds that we have available that we're serving the children that are truly at-risk and truly meet that definition," said Burr, co-chairman of the House Select Committee on Early Childhood Education Improvement.

The group has drafted a bill that would limit eligibility for pre-K classes to children whose families are at or below the federal government's poverty guideline, which is an annual income of $22,000 for a family of four.

Under current state guidelines, a 4-year-old is considered "at risk" if the child's family makes less than $51,000 a year.

About one-third of the children now in North Carolina pre-K programs and thousands more on the waiting lists would no longer be economically eligible if the legislation passes.

Burr said federal programs like Head Start use the poverty standard to set eligibility.

"We're trying to see if we can meet that same standard and make sure that we're serving the kids that are most at risk," he said. Pre-K, pre-kindergarten Proposal would limit enrollment in pre-K programs

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ruled last year that the state has a constitutional duty to provide pre-K classes to all at-risk 4-year-olds.

Republican legislative leaders have appealed Manning's ruling, and they reduced funding for pre-K programs in this year's state budget.

"This could be interpreted as one way to skirt that ruling by simply changing the definition of at-risk," said Rob Thompson, executive director of the advocacy group Covenant with North Carolina's Children.

"In my mind, we should be looking for ways to expand access to pre-kindergarten, not to limit access. So, we're really concerned with what's in that report," Thompson said.

Perdue spokeswoman Chris Mackey called the Republican recommendations a bad idea.

"The research is clear and convincing: Dollars invested in early childhood education pay dividends. That’s why the General Assembly’s repeated efforts to block access to NC Pre-K are so bad for North Carolina," Mackey said in a statement.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan backed Perdue's efforts to expand pre-K programs and said lawmakers need to find more funding.

“While the governor has been a tireless advocate for fully funding early childhood education, her commitment has not been matched by the legislature," Duncan said in a statement. “I hope that, as state leaders begin funding conversations for next year, they work to make this situation right by giving all of North Carolina's young at-risk learners a chance to succeed.”

Perdue said she doesn't have any constitutional or legal concerns about spending the child-care subsidy dollars without the approval of the General Assembly, which appropriates state funds.

The subsidy funds haven't been allocated as quickly as anticipated to all 100 counties, so Perdue and her advisers decided it was a better use of the money to help 4-year-olds for a five-month period rather than distribute child-care subsidies to parents knowing that the money would run out for some next year, said Al Delia, acting secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

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  • rastubar Mar 1, 5:29 p.m.

    $$mart $$tart/ More$$$ at Four. When will we let parents take care of the children like God requires them too. Where is the responsibility the parent has to rear the child??? THIS IS NOT THE ROLE OF THE COV'T and Taxpayer no matter what bull Gov. Jim Hunt sold you Democrats years ago. You are paying way too much on Education for what you are getting in return.
    Harveythe Rabbitt.
    Our current TOP 6th graders rank up to the Level III 15 yrs. ago Stop voting Democrate to end this nonsense.

  • storchheim Feb 23, 7:08 p.m.

    "Recently the GOP has stepped up their rhetoric against public education and teachers."

    "...Daycares are a safeplaces...Most daycares are 6weeks old babies all they way up to children at the age of 4. Most teachers do have a two year degree in EArly Childhood Education. Public and Private Pre-k differ based on where they are located. Public Prek are geared to preparing children for kindergarten so that those children who are considered at risk willnot be left behind in the upper grades of school. These children need the base stones that are provided for them in the early years. Private Pre k differs based on the type of school it is and the state that they are located in. I am in the Early CHildhood program at a local community college and" - kountrycowgurl

    Yes, let's blame the GOP for the way teachers are viewed. Seriously, this is an example of a teacher's writing?

  • kountrycowgurl Feb 23, 4:55 p.m.

    Okay thisto any people who think that they know what daycares are for! Daycares are a safeplaces that parents feel they can leave their children, the children dont justplay all day they are in a structured environment where they are being taught vaulable educational information. Most daycares are 6weeks old babies all they way up to children at the age of 4. Most teachers do have a two year degree in EArly Childhood Education. Public and Private Pre-k differ based on where they are located. Public Prek are geared to preparing children for kindergarten so that those children who are considered at risk willnot be left behind in the upper grades of school. These children need the base stones that are provided for them in the early years. Private Pre k differs based on the type of school it is and the state that they are located in. I am in the Early CHildhood program at a local community college and I can guarantee you that we are taught to not only to let the children play but provide th

  • ljohnson247 Feb 23, 4:27 p.m.

    From what is being said, we taken it that the Dems and their groups would like all taxpayer money and more to go to education, large group of voters, and other social programs, another large of voters. Look at what they did for 140 years to get the State in the shape it is today.

  • Plenty Coups Feb 23, 3:01 p.m.

    Kaitlyn-"Until recently teaching was looked on as a valuable profession, but all that has changed and now teachers are almost demonized by some people, including many politicians. Who needs that? Last year I switched my major to biology/pre-med. A lot of people resent physicians too, but I figured if I'm going to be despised by others I might as well get paid decent money for it."

    Recently the GOP has stepped up their rhetoric against public education and teachers. It coincided with the 2008 recession as apparently the GOP saw an opportunity to cut off funding by trying to blame the shortage of funds on all those "overpaid" teachers making 31K per year!

  • westernwake1 Feb 23, 2:05 p.m.

    It appears that a number of people on this thread are confused about the difference between Daycare, private Pre-K, and public Pre-K. Let's provide some help:

    1) Daycare: A place to drop off your children for care while you work for 2 to 4 year olds. Has no educational agenda. Children only play and are watched. Staff only has high school diplomas generally.

    2) Private Pre-K: A school for 4 year olds aimed at preparing them for kindergarten. Has an educational program or agenda. Does not have to meet strict state program standards. Teachers generally have a 4 year degree but no certificates in special ed, etc.

    3) Public Pre-K: A school for 4 year olds funded by the state. Can be held in public schools and certified private schools. Strict educational agenda that meets the state's standards. Many special needs children in the program. Staff has 4 year degrees minimum, most have masters - all with specialized early childhood certifications. Classrooms have TAs also.

  • storchheim Feb 23, 2:03 p.m.

    Nancy, according to what I read yesterday:

    poverty is one measure,

    native language is another, T

    HEN there's the mysterious "at-risk" category, separate from the other two, determined by "other factors" which are never defined in the document, but are apparently decided on a whim by those who get paid if the program continues.

  • readme Feb 23, 1:59 p.m.

    Once we start giving all these freebies to the "poor" and come up with any studies that say anyone has benefitted, the problem is it becomes very hard to remove those freebies. Now a vote to defund them is a "vote against the kids". When really, it's just a vote to ask parents to do what they should be doing anyway.

  • fl2nc2ca2md2nc Feb 23, 1:31 p.m.

    "There's NO reason why a parent can't teach his/her child at home the skills needed to enter kindergarten. alwaysamused

    I agree with the statement but just how many skills do you need to enter kindergarten anyway? The skills we needed for kindergarten were get dropped off by our parents, sit still and listen to the teacher... Our parents didn't even go to kindergarten and they were the generation that sent men to the moon, created the internet, and untold other inventions and contributions to society. Now, our kids entering college need remedial classes when they get there. Something's not right and it's definitely not a need for pre-k programs! What a scam!

  • RomneyRyan2012 Feb 23, 1:27 p.m.

    Free taxpayer paid babysitting...

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