@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Pre-K changes get first House OK

Posted May 2, 2013

A proposal to cut in half the number of children eligible for the state's free Pre-K program won tentative House approval Thursday.

House Bill 935 would lower the number of eligible children to about 31,000 by changing the legal definition of an at-risk child. 

Under current law, a 4-year-old is considered at-risk and eligible for the program if his or her family makes less than 75 percent of the state's median wage. That's about $39,000 a year for a family of three. 

pre-K House gives nod to Pre-K changes

Children are also currently eligible if they have an active duty military parent, limited English proficiency, developmental problems or chronic illness.

More than 60,000 children a year in North Carolina are eligible for the program under the current guidelines. 

The proposal would reduce the family income threshold to the federal poverty level, about $19,500 for a family of three – about half the current maximum.

Children with limited English proficiency or chronic illness would no longer be automatically eligible. 

Sponsor Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, says the bill doesn't cut the program. It simply brings the guidelines into agreement with the available funding.

The program has never been fully funded under either party. Its budget was cut by 20 percent last session. It currently serves less than 30,000 four-year-olds.

"We will still have more qualified 4-year-olds than we do slots," Burr said. "There will not be one slot cut. This is simply ensuring that we as a state are serving those most at risk." 

The change would also help bring the state closer to compliance with a 2011 court ruling.

Wake Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ruled the state's constitution requires it to provide free pre-kindergarten to all at-risk 4-year-olds. His ruling, however, didn't deal with the definition of "at-risk."

Democrats tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill, urging Republican leaders to expand the program instead of cutting eligibility.

"We can’t all roll up the ladder and say only our children should have an opportunity," said House Minority Leader Larry Hall, D-Durham."It doesn’t take care of the need just because we change the definition."

Hall urged Republicans to take a long-term view of the program. "We’re getting ready to doom North Carolina in many areas moving forward," he said. "We’re talking about impacting our graduation rates. We’re talking about a developing a workforce that will not be able to compete." 

Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, said the need for pre-kindergarten help doesn't end at the poverty line. "When you look at 60 percent of third graders who aren’t reading on grade level, that’s not 100 percent of poverty. It goes well beyond that." 

The measure passed largely along party lines, 63-46. It's scheduled for a final vote Monday night before it heads to the Senate. 

Governor Pat McCrory has also proposed cutting eligibility for Pre-K. His benchmark is 130 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $25,500 for a family of three.  

47 Comments

This blog post is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Krimson May 4, 2013

    "Since there is NO difference by the 3rd grade, we need to get rid of the whole program,"

    I didn't realize Reading Comprehension was an issue with Righties... The studies state that kids that had Head Start did not maintain any advantage over their non Head Start peers by 3rd grade. That doesn't mean the HS Kids "lost" anything, it means the non HS "caught up" by the time they were in 3rd grade. That means for K, 1st and 2nd, those non HS kids were still behind and holding back their classes... If you want to keep throwing out the 3rd grade number, that's fine, but it only PROVES that HS/Pre-K works...

  • skipgin May 4, 2013

    Since there is NO difference by the 3rd grade, we need to get rid of the whole program, not double-down to make a waste of money program available to more kids that don't need it. This is a "feel good" program and that's all. That money could be much better spent on tutors or other initiatives at higher grade levels.

  • Krimson May 3, 2013

    Terkel: "[Educational achievement...]"

    Not quite. Low income doesn't make a child stupid but low income people tend not to value education. Don't try to make this another wealth-envy screed. You could offer books all day to a child whose parents don't care about education and he won't touch them."

    Not quite??? Actually, that is EXACTLY what he said...

  • Krimson May 3, 2013

    "While Head Start participation benefited children's learning and development during their time in the federally funded preschool program, those advantages had mostly vanished by the end of 3rd grade, a new federal study finds."

    So what you are saying is that it takes a kid w/o Pre-K (3) years in the Public System to catch up to a peer that had the advantage of Pre-K... That sounds like its even more imperative we fund Pre-K...

  • Terkel May 3, 2013

    "Finally, in a perfect world ALL parents would do a great job in raising their children. But this is not a perfect world - get over it - of all things to cut - education should be one of the last....." durbin

    You should sit down and be quiet because somehow your kid stuck you with raising your grandkid. As for the multiple college degrees you claim, I do not reconcile those claims with your writing style. Either you don't have the education you claim, or education is pretty worthless after all, and that's all the more reason to abolish free day care touted as pre-k.

  • Terkel May 3, 2013

    "My granddaughter has medicaid and thank goodness for that. As grandparents we are raising her and not because her parents are neglectful but because life happens and many times not for the good." durbing

    Let me guess what "happened" in your kid's "life": daddy long gone, mama in jail or on drugs or living with new "fiance" who hurt the granddaughter or didn't want her around, and "fiance" was more important. We read these stories every week or oftener. Sounds like you should have been more involved instead of whining about what the little one "deserves".

    Why do I sound so harsh? Because when you say "life happens", it means you don't want us to know the truth.

  • FairPlay May 3, 2013

    Focusing on PreK only has long been a problem. We have kids who are failing in every grade and only an 80% high school graduation rate. We need to focus funds and time on middle and high schoolers also. NO ONE should not have a high school education at the least.

  • cbuckyoung May 2, 2013

    Congratulations to the NC Legislature. They have brought the program guidelines in line with the available funding and ensured that the most at-risk get served. This is to sensible for the left to comprehend.

  • durbingoodwin May 2, 2013

    Finally, in a perfect world ALL parents would do a great job in raising their children. But this is not a perfect world - get over it - of all things to cut - education should be one of the last.....

  • Terkel May 2, 2013

    " Educational achievement is correlated with income level not because lower incomes makes a child stupid but because families with higher incomes tend to have more of those factors associated with positive ducationa outcomes."

    Not quite. Low income doesn't make a child stupid but low income people tend not to value education. Don't try to make this another wealth-envy screed. You could offer books all day to a child whose parents don't care about education and he won't touch them.

    Last time I looked, every library had a "story hour". If you can't be bothered taking your kid to the library - it's paid for by the taxpayers so you should feel right at home - in order to expose him to learning and socialization, don't expect me to pay for hours and hours of free time for you so you can what, go make more kids?

More...