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Senate budget cuts to pre-kindergarten are even more severe than they first appeared

Initial reports of the Senate’s proposed budget focused on the transfer of 2,500 North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten (NC Pre-K) slots to the child care subsidy in 2013-14 and 5,000 slots in 2014-15. However, the actual number of students being served will decline even more dramatically than these numbers suggest. There are currently over 29,000 students served by NC Pre-K. Under the Senate budget proposal, the number of children enrolled in NC Pre-K will actually decline by 7,500 slots in 2013-14 and 10,000 slots in 2014-15.

The reasons for this additional massive loss of NC Pre-K slots are somewhat complex. In 2012, then-Governor Beverly Perdue issued an executive order reinstating 6,300 NC Pre-K slots in order to comply with a decision by Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning holding that “[t]he State of North Carolina shall not deny any eligible at-risk four year old admission to the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten Program (NCPK).” Judge Manning’s decision followed a 20% reduction to the NC Pre-K program in the 2011 legislative budget. Judge Manning’s decision has since been affirmed by the Court of Appeals and is on appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Although the executive order called for the reinstatement of 6,300 pre-kindergarten slots, in the end enough funding was provided for just 5,000 slots.

These slots are not part of the baseline budget because they were created by executive order rather than in the legislature’s budget bill. These slots will expire at the end of this school year and will disappear unless they are enshrined in the 2013 biennial budget. That is precisely what Governor McCrory’s budget attempted to do by adding 5,000 pre-kindergarten slots to the baseline budget, which would allow the program would remain at its current size.

The Senate’s budget proposal cuts 2,500 slots in 2013-14 and 5,000 slots in 2014-15 in addition to the 5,000 slots that will be lost due to the expiration of Governor Perdue’s executive order. Here is what the overall impact of multiple rounds of cuts to NC Pre-K would look like if the Senate’s budget proposal is adopted:

Year Number of Children Served
2008-09 34,876
2009-10 31,197
2010-11 30,767
2011-12 24,757
2012-13 29,644
2013-14* 22,144
2014-15)* 19,644

Source: NC Treasurer’s Office, available at https://www.nctreasurer.com/slg/State%20Compliance%20Supplements/DHHS-50-2012.pdf

* Based on Senate Budget Committee Report, available at http://www.ncleg.net/sessions/2011/budget/2011/MoneyReport-5-31-11.pdf

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