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State Education Leaders to Seek Pre-K’s Return to DPI

The North Carolina State Board of Education approved a budgetary wish list on Thursday, one that includes a request for the Department of Public Instruction to regain administrative control over the state’s highly touted pre-K program.

The budgetary process is at a very early stage and the request is likely to go through various post-election transformations, but the Pre-K message is very clear. June Atkinson, the state’s superintendent of public schools, said she would draft a letter formally requesting that lawmakers put the program back where it belongs – at DPI.

When the Pre-K program was under the Department of Public Instruction, she said, it was recognized as being one of the best in the nation.

In addition, she said, “Our cost analyses show that since we already have an infrastructure for schools, we can serve 1,800 more students with the same amount of money, which to me is very powerful.”

Atkinson also highlighted economic research that says for every dollar invested in pre-K education, the return on investment ranges from $9 to $18.

NC Pre-K currently serves well under half of the state’s estimated 67,000 at-risk 4-year-olds. Of those, 12,000 are on a waiting list to get in. The current situation is, in part, the result of a legislative decision to cut funding by $16 million for the 2011-2012 school year, thereby reducing the number of children served by 3,167, or 10 percent.

Lawmakers also decided to take the pre-K program out of DPI and put it in the Department of Health and Human Services.

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