This afternoon, Governor Perdue issued an executive order to the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to eliminate all admission barriers that would prevent at-risk children from participating in the North Carolina Prekindergarten Program (formerly More At Four).
Governor Perdue’s order implements Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning’s ruling last month, which stated that access to high-quality prekindergarten was necessary to protect “the individual right of every child to have the equal opportunity to obtain a sound basic education.”
Although the media is likely to focus on Perdue’s order as part of a political “battle” between her and the General Assembly’s GOP leadership, the real story is that the Governor’s order is likely to make a huge positive difference in the lives of thousands of at-risk kids in North Carolina.
The evidence demonstrating the substantial, long-lasting improvements in the lives of children with access to high-quality preschool is overwhelming, and much of the research suggests that if young, at-risk kids don’t develop the soft skills that are necessary to become a productive member of society when they’re young, they’ll likely never develop them.
That’s why, instead of legislative leaders challenging Governor Perdue’s executive order to score political points, they should work together with the Governor to identify the resources that will be necessary to serve not just the 32,000 kids served by More At Four last year, but all of the 60,000 at-risk kids that DHHS has identified as being eligible for North Carolina Pre-K.