Raleigh, N.C. — Two days before President Barack Obama visits a Mooresville school, the White House said Tuesday that North Carolina is eligible for $102.2 million in federal funding to help expand pre-kindergarten classes statewide.
The federal Preschool for All program proposed by Obama would require a state match of $10.2 million to provide pre-kindergarten seats to nearly 12,500 children from low-income families next year.
"Providing a year of free, public preschool for every child is an important investment in our nation’s future, providing our children the best start in life while helping hard-working families save thousands each year in costs associated with early care and education," the White House said in a statement.
This proposal calls for investing $75 billion in early childhood education nationwide over the next decade.
The House last month approved a bill that would cut in half the number of children eligible for North Carolina's pre-kindergarten program by changing the legal definition of an at-risk child.
More than 60,000 children a year are eligible for NC Pre-K under the current guidelines, but cutting the allowable family median income and eliminating some other groups considered at-risk, including children with limited English proficiency or chronic illness, would cut that to 31,000.
Supporters say the proposal focuses limited state money on 4-year-olds who most need a year of schooling to prepare them for kindergarten.
NC Pre-K has never been fully funded, and its budget was cut by 20 percent last session.
Changing the definition of at-risk would also help bring the state closer to compliance with a 2011 court ruling.
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."