@NCCapitol

Appeals court upholds decision to expand NC pre-K programs

Posted August 21, 2012

— The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled unanimously Tuesday to uphold a lower court decision that says the state cannot deny at-risk children admission to public pre-kindergarten programs.

Legislative leaders said they plan to appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court, so it's doubtful any changes would take effect this year.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning last year threw out legislative changes to the early childhood education program that limited access and required parents to pick up part of the cost. He ruled that North Carolina has a constitutional duty to provide pre-kindergarten to at-risk 4-year-olds.

Lawmakers dropped those limitations this year, but Republican leaders still fought Manning's ruling, which could cost North Carolina $300 million a year.

"We know that pre-K has long-lasting positive impacts on children, on their families and really makes it more likely they'll be successful in life," said Rob Thompson, executive director of advocacy group Covenant with North Carolina's Children.

"Instead of trying to figure out ways to get around the ruling, let's try and figure out how to get these kids the highest-quality education," Thompson said. "It's a matter of figuring out where the revenue is going to come from."

The state defines at-risk children as those whose families earn below the statewide average, who have a disability or chronic health problem, come from a family that doesn't speak English at home or have parents on active military duty.

Officials have estimated that 67,000 children would qualify for pre-kindergarten statewide, but only 26,000 of them are now enrolled.

Pre-kindergarten generic, Smart Start Lawmakers appeal pre-K ruling to NC Supreme Court

"A child born today only has 2,000 days before he or she begins kindergarten. That child’s quality of life and the contributions he or she will make to society can be directly traced to these first few years of life," said Dr. Olson Huff, state chairman of North Carolina Partnership for Children, which oversees the Smart Start early childhood program. "The North Carolina Court of Appeals’ decision today reaffirms that every child has the right to the opportunity to succeed."

Appeals Court Judge Rick Elmore wrote in the 21-page ruling that state attorneys misinterpreted Manning's order to mean legislators must provide pre-kindergarten to all at-risk 4-year-olds in North Carolina. Elmore said the order was about eliminating artificial barriers to enter the program.

Gov. Beverly Perdue and top Democratic lawmakers lauded the court ruling, saying that educational opportunities affect a child's lot later in life.

"(The) unanimous decision provides both a boost for struggling families and hope for every child across our state," Perdue said in a statement. "We need to come together on a bipartisan basis and recommit ourselves to early childhood education.”

"Republicans inexplicably continue to erect artificial barriers to keep at-risk children out of quality pre-kindergarten programs, even in the face of two court rulings telling them they are violating the constitution," Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt and House Minority Leader Joe Hackney said in a statement. "(We) look forward to a resolution that will give more of our preschoolers a chance to succeed in school."

218 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • jetset Aug 23, 6:27 p.m.

    I am 100% for YOUR child or ANY child with disabilities to attend school beginning at age 3 and going to age 21. Not as much federal money will be spent here. BUT, when you start talking EVERY preschool child, THRN I have an ISSUE that our GVT mandates for ALL OF THEM go---- LONG TERM stats do NOT show the benefit and THAT is a fact.

  • jetset Aug 23, 6:21 p.m.

    I am not complaining about educating our youth, for Heaven's sake. However, I know that the educational system in China and Japan is VERY STRUCTURED AND THEY GO FOR LONG HOURS AND EVEN SATURDAYS. You are comparing apples to oranges. Parents in China pay for lots of the educational perks IF their child does these things. And, isn't their political system so much different? Maybe, communist? If the child can't learn or has a disability, there is NO WAY in Chinal that they would pay one dime for the child to,attend school. THINK!!!!!!!

  • jetset Aug 23, 6:03 p.m.

    In no way am I saying it did not help your child. I am talking llong term benefits to a child after grade school. Preschool gives children a boost so they will be ready for KINDERGARTEN. After that, not so much. Is the juice worth the squeeze. In other words, does our gvt have that amt of money to keep giving, giving, giving when some parents could HELP pay or SUPPORT these programs but don't do one thing except expect more?

  • jzdukefan Aug 23, 1:19 p.m.

    “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

    If you have never walked in the shoes as a parent of a child with a disability or a learning disorder then your opinion really doesnt even matter. You have no idea how hard it is or how expensive it is to take care of and provide for them. The journey is a long road with lots of bumps,turns, pot holes and that is sometimes never ending. You never know what to expect and your life is never anywhere close to normal. These are children that can not help what they were born with. I do agree that their parents can help. I am a STRONG advocate for my son and I have been since he was about 11 months old and I knew that there was something wrong with him. I feel very Strongly about educating our Youth as ealry as possible. Even without a Disability or learning Disorder. Look how smart the Chinese and Japanese are. They start early. Find something else to complain ab

  • jzdukefan Aug 23, 1:05 p.m.

    I would have been happy to pay for my son to be in that classroom. In fact I did pay for alot of things that he did do in that classroom. And I do pay for my son to go to daycare now and I did pay for him to go to daycare before and after school then. Most of those children have a disability or a learning delay. How would you feel if your child was mentally challenged or mentally handicap and people were on here talking smack about them receiving an education a lil bit earlier to try and get them caught up to other children their age?
    These kids will be the kids that hold your child back from learning in the classroom because they are behind and the teacher has to spend more time with them instead of the group as a whole.

  • jzdukefan Aug 23, 12:50 p.m.

    You are more than welcome to come meet my son anytime you would like. He can proove it. There is also another child that started with him that can proove the benefits. In fact EVERY child that was in his class benefited from this program. I dont know if it was the teachers or maybe your lack of actualy going into a classroom and visualizing the before and after affects. Who does the govt pay when they rent this space? Do they pay the school? Its a public school funded program. If the county doesnt offer it they can be sued.
    You should read up on Civil Rights. You can go to the office of civil rights and section 504 will tell you all about it.

    http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/504faq.html

  • jetset Aug 23, 12:00 p.m.

    I am all for educating our children. However, there comes a point where we as a country must say "whoa" to every freebie . So much money can be pumped in but if the results that the children do not benefit ( greatly) with stats to back up ( and there are saying they do not)) then the program should be abandoned. It is a huge expense with very little to prove for it.

  • jetset Aug 23, 11:55 a.m.

    At one time there was preschool (beginning at age 3yo) for special needs children only at the school(called the EC) class. THEN, the at risk children got their own preschool within the school. It is part of the gvt sponsored preschool. It is all at risk and there is no charge if the child is on Medicaid. The federal gvt is involved in this. I think the county school board must "rent" the use of the space to the gvt. There is lots of money going to this gvt sponsored preschool.And, parents are clammoring to get their children in.
    **** added note: I think there are other locations in the county that the gvt "rents" for their more at gvt sponsored preschool.

  • jzdukefan Aug 23, 10:20 a.m.

    You all keep saying this is free daycare but school does let out for the Summmer so OMG!!! What in the world do these parents do with their kids over the Summer? Its not free Daycare. If they want free daycare they can go down to their local County Social Services and apply. Thats where you get free daycare from.

    With that being said I guess everyone who has a child in school is getting free daycare that WE ALL ARE PAYING TAXES FOR.
    There is MAYBE, yes MAYBE one clasroom like this at each school and all the children in the classroom are not enrolled in the PRE-K program. Majority of them are ECE(Special Needs) children who have a real disability. Who are REALLY at risk.
    AGAIN DO YOUR RESEARCH

  • jzdukefan Aug 23, 10:13 a.m.

    jetset thats great.... I use to be a registered democrat... but they are all the same in my opinion. I believe in saving money and not giving handouts as well. The problem is to many people are recieveing free handouts that dont really need it and the govt is wasting money on things that arent really needed. I know that you are smart enough to know that.

    And if your a democrat you should talk to your current president because he is the one pushing to give,give,give to the poor while taking away from the poeple who work their tales off like I... a single mother who recieves NOTHING. My son was in an ECE program because he has Autism. He was in a blended classrom. There were children in his classroom that were part of the more at four program which is this Pre-K funded prgoram. Those children helped my son tremendously with social skills. While my son is extremely inteligent far beyond most of those students he didnt speak.

More...