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Farmworker pre-K(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.)

By John Menditto

In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama announced a bold and ambitious plan to expand preschool services. The “Preschool for All” Initiative calls for $75 billion in new funding during the next decade to partner with states and help expand access to low- and middle-income children who are not currently enrolled in preschool programs.

Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has been tireless in his advocacy for this new, national initiative. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with Secretary Duncan as part of a small coalition of community-based groups who serve the Latino community and ask him how the Administration would make sure that the Preschool for All Initiative did not exclude by its design the preschool-aged children of migrant farm workers. Secretary Duncan assured the group that “Preschool for All” meant exactly that: there would be no asterisk excepting out farmworker families. He invited those in attendance to provide the Administration with information on how to design preschool services to ensure the children of farmworker families did not lose out on the benefits of a preschool education.  Read More

michael-ward-phdDr. Mike Ward, who served as state superintendent of Public Instruction from 1997 to 2004, warns in a Wednesday editorial in the News & Observer that “the nation will witness the backslide” of North Carolina following a series of legislative proposals that undercut public education:

‘How sad we were to move back to Raleigh last fall and find some legislative leaders committed to a sprint to the bottom. After being far more competitive, North Carolina now ranks 48th in per pupil expenditure and 46th in how well we reward our hard-working teachers. And some in the General Assembly appear poised to make it worse.

Here’s just a sample of the proposed policies that stand to hurt our public schools and our students:

1.) Massive cuts to school funding. This means thousands of lost teaching positions. It means crowded classrooms and the loss of teacher assistants in early elementary grades, even though research shows that smaller class sizes help students, especially struggling students.

2.) Vouchers. If you want to know where money to pay for teachers is going, one place to look is at the proposed voucher legislation. Proponents refer to them as “opportunity scholarships.” Vouchers are bad public policy, snatching millions of dollars away from public schools that desperately need them. We support the choice of private education, but taxpayers will foot the bill for some parents to send their children to private schools. Legislators backing these vouchers will tell you that the vouchers are for disadvantaged students, but the bulk of these vouchers will go to middle-income residents – and you’ll get to pay their children’s private school tuition. Vouchers are an expensive, divisive program with virtually no record of improving overall student performance. Read More

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

The good people at the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children just released this statement on the Berger budget plan:

Senate budget short-changes NC’s children
Budget would cut funding for early education and K-12 schools and remove cap on class size

RALEIGH – Late Sunday night, Senate budget writers released their 2014-15 budget proposal, which includes deep cuts to education, early care and infant mortality prevention.

“This budget continues the ongoing deterioration of our public school system,” stated Rob Thompson, Executive Director of the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children. “If the Senate is serious about improving student outcomes, then underfunding schools and removing the cap on class size are the last things it should do.”

In addition to deep cuts in K-12 education, the Senate budget appears to cut the Smart Start early education program by 42%.[1] Read More

The good people at Action NC and Progress NC are out with some new poll results courtesy of Public Policy Polling. The poll asked North Carolina voters four questions about education policy during the last week of  April. Here’s the Action NC release:

Majority of NC voter oppose school vouchers, limiting pre-K
New poll finds strong opposition to many forms of education disinvestment currently under consideration at General Assembly

Raleigh – More than 60 percent of North Carolina voters oppose a school voucher plan currently under consideration at the General Assembly, according to a new poll just released by Action NC and Progress NC. Read More