House Bill 935, NC Pre-Kindergarten Law Changes, faced little opposition in the House’s Health and Human Services committee this morning. The bill passed 14-4.
HB 935 would lessen the number of low-income children eligible for the state’s award-winning Pre-K program by changing the definition of “at-risk” children. Previously, those who were determined to be at-risk, and thus eligible for pre-kindergarten, fell into one of three categories:
- A child with an identified disability as indicated by the child having a current Individualized Education Plan (IEP);
- A child of an active duty member of the Armed Forces, or a child of a deceased Armed Forces member; or
A child whose family’s gross income was at or below approximately 200%
of the federal poverty guidelines.
The bill seeks to change that last criterion by reducing the maximum gross income to just 100%, or $19,500 for a family of three. Rep. Burr, sponsor of the bill, explained that this move would better serve “those truly at-risk children.”
This change would block more than a third of current participants, or about 10,000 children, from accessing pre-kindergarten. The average cost of high quality pre-K is around $1,000/month. It would be unlikely for a family of three making $25,000/year to be able to shoulder that cost.
Rep. Insko was the only vocal opponent of the bill, explaining to her colleagues that “we are not taking care of the future of this state if we don’t make sure these kids are ready for kindergarten…we must invest in our children.”
Rob Thompson, Executive Director of the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children, said in a press release after the bill passed,“Pre-kindergarten is an investment in our future workforce. We need to look for ways to expand access to NC Pre-K, not narrow it.”
The bill will now move on to the House floor.