North Carolina’s new $19.7 billion budget will take effect next Friday, but educators are still hopeful they can stop major changes to More at Four.
Attorneys representing five low-wealth schools districts have requested that Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. issue an injunction against budget plans that would cut the pre-kindergarten program by $32 million.
Attorney Melanie Dubis told the court Thursday that transferring the program out of the Department of Public Instruction to Health and Human Services would alter the program significantly and end rigorous evaluation. Dubois also asserted that cuts and required co-pays would lead to “immediate and irreparable” damage to disadvantaged students.
Arguing for the state, Senior Deputy Attorney General Tom Ziko told Manning that the state is not abandoning its commitment to low-performing students or poor schools. Ziko explained that many of the tough budget decisions were necessary because of the Great Recession.
Judge Manning must now decide if the new budget goes too far, and fails to fulfill the state’s constitutional mandate to provide “a sound basic education” for all children. The judge has not indicated when his ruling might come, but plaintiffs are hoping it’s before July 1st, when the new fiscal year begins.
To watch part of Thursday’s court hearing, click below: