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This morning’s Greensboro News & Record gets it just about right with an editorial entitled “Just the essentials.”

“The legislature’s ‘short’ session convenes today with one essential purpose: to make adjustments to the second year of the biennial state budget.

There’s other work that needs to be done, and some things that should not be done.

In the first category:

* Pay raises for teachers.

Gov. Pat McCrory outlined his proposal last week. It includes substantial raises in starting salaries and for teachers in the first few years of their careers. More experienced teachers also would see increases. The legislature should flesh out and approve a plan to improve teacher compensation and simultaneously revoke its ill-conceived directive for school systems to designate one-fourth of eligible teachers to receive bonuses if they surrender their tenure rights.

* Stricter coal ash regulation.

The massive spill of coal ash into the Dan River near Eden in February alarmed politicians of both parties who had ignored the issue of safe storage for years. Now is the time to set Duke Energy on a course of corrective action and put in place new regulations to protect water.

* Medicaid expansion.

Last year’s decision to reject federal funding to broaden eligibility left an estimated 300,000 or more residents without health care coverage. The legislature should correct this mistake.

* Preschool enrollment.

The legislature last year directed stronger efforts for schools to make sure children can read by the end of third grade but didn’t grant additional resources to get the job done. One way is to pay for more at-risk 4-year-olds to attend prekindergarten programs.

Now, what the legislature should not do…

Click here to read the rest of the editorial.

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If you get a chance, check out this Charlotte Observer editorial on the state Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the North Carolina’s still badly inadequate pre-Kindergarten effort. As the editorial notes:

Berger pre-K“We’re a little puzzled by the fist-pumping from Republicans in Raleigh last week after the N.C. Supreme Court tossed out a case involving the legislature and the state’s pre-K program.

The court, in a six-page decision, dismissed an appeal of a 2011 lower-court ruling that said the Republican-led legislature had violated a constitutional mandate by making it harder for at-risk children to participate in pre-K. The court also vacated that lower-court ruling because Republicans undid the two things that landed them in court in the first place – capping pre-K enrollment and initiating a co-pay for some eligible families. Read More

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In case you missed them. here are two responses worth checking out this morning to last week’s state Supreme Court’s decision on pre-K and the General Assembly’s typically thickheaded response. First, there is this excellent editorial from this morning’s Fayetteville Observer:

“North Carolina’s legislative leaders, having stepped out of the path of an oncoming train, now wish to be hailed for their splendid judgment. Read More

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The state Supreme Court issued its ruling today (see below) on a case centering around the state’s pre-kindergarten services, and whether the state legislature had improperly imposed restrictions to the program.

The court found the legislature had passed changes in 2012 legislation that undid many of the legal issues that had been before the court. The court then remanded the case back to the Court of Appeals to vacate the July 2011 trial court decision by Judge Howard Manning that expanded the pre-K program from what was called for in 2011 legislation.

Today’s ruling won’t have any immediate effect on the pre-K offerings in the state, with funding and slots staying the same.

A “per curiam” decision was made, meaning that all of the N.C. Supreme Court justices were in agreement with today’s ruling vacating Manning’s decision.

Today’s ruling also appears to leave open how the justices felt about the 2012 changes made by the legislature, and reaffirmed the court’s prior rulings in the decades-old Leandro case about how the state delivers on its constitutional promise guaranteeing “every child of this state an opportunity to receive a sound basic education in our public schools.”

“We express no opinion on the legislation now in effect because questions of its constitutionality are not before us,” the justice’s wrote in today’s opinion. “Our mandates in Leandro and Hoke remain in full force and effect.”

For more background on the case click here for this excellent rundown by N.C. Policy Watch’s Sharon McCloskey.

 

preKleandro.pdf by NC Policy Watch

 

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(This post is part of a blog series on the crucial role of quality early childhood education and child care in caring for our youngest residents, creating thriving communities, and promoting a healthy economy. Read the introduction to this blog series and learn more about the programs we?ll be discussing here.)

Helen LaddClara MuschkinBy Helen Ladd and Clara Muschkin

Education research clearly documents that investments in early childhood programs are among the smartest investments that states can make.  It is time now for policy makers from both parties in North Carolina to come together to reaffirm what previous policy makers in this state have well understood:  That we must invest in our young children today not only because it is the right thing to do for them but because it is the right thing to do for our state.  

North Carolina has long been a leader in early childhood programs. Starting in the early 1990s, then Governor Hunt led a crusade to address the many challenges facing young    children in this state, and for 15 years the state’s Smart Start Initiative and, later, its More at Four Program were recognized as models for other states. Over the years, various studies by the Frank Porter Graham Center at UNC-CH have documented how these initiatives have helped young children and their families address challenges such as poor health, low-quality child care options, family dysfunction, and lack of readiness for school.  

Along with our Duke colleague Kenneth Dodge, we have recently expanded that research by looking at the communitywide effects on third-grade outcomes of the Smart Start initiative aimed at children aged 0 to 5 and the More at Four program that funded slots in high-quality settings for at-risk four-year olds.  Read More