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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.

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Professor Sean Reardon of Stanford University has a fascinating article in the New York Times today (“No Rich Child left Behind”) about what really lies at the root of the growing achievement gap in the American education system.

Here are some of his findings:

  • The gap between poor and rich kids is growing.
  • The gap is not about race as much as it is about income.
  • The gap is not a product of “failing” schools; average American are smarter and perform better than their parents.
  • Much of the gap is attributable to early childhood education — especially the challenging and stimulating upbringings that wealthy parents are providing to their pre-school children.
  • The gap appears to be self-reinforcing; smarter, higher achieving kids end up with better, higher-paying jobs and the wherewithal to help their children.
  • Improving our early childhood parenting may be even more important than improving our schools and teachers.

Read Reardon’s entire article by clicking here. It’s clearly food for thought. 

 

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The Guv expands Pre-K. This is from the good folks at the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children:

Perdue expands NC Pre-K to 6,300 additional children
Decision is first step to comply with court mandate

RALEIGH – This morning, Governor Perdue announced that she will make NC Pre-K available to an additional 6,300 children. This move marks the state’s first attempt to comply with the recent Court of Appeals ruling that no at-risk child shall be denied access to NC Pre-K. Currently, there is a waitlist of 11,678 children for the program.

“Governor Perdue’s decision means that over 6,000 more children will enter Kindergarten better prepared to succeed in school and in life,” stated Rob Thompson, Executive Director of the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children. “We hope that the legislature will extend funding for these slots when it reconvenes in January.” Read More

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If you’re looking for a concise and common sense explanation of why North Carolina needs to invest more rather than less in pre-Kindergarten programs, read this op-ed by a Wake Forest educator named Kim Hughes in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer.

As Hughes’ piece makes clear, every day that North Carolina waits to create a truly universal and free pre-K program is another in which we have failed to do what we need to do to secure our future.   

 

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Rev. Dr. William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP, called on state legislative leaders this morning to take immediate action to place the state in compliance with the recent ruling issued by the North Carolina Court of Appeals regarding access of at-risk four year olds to publicly-funded pre-kindergarten.

In a letter that Barber and allies hand delivered to the offices of House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger,  Barber said that:

“We believe many parents and their children, particularly in low-wealth counties, were told by school authorities that they could not enroll in More at Four programs this fall because of the obstacles your legislation created. It is now your duty to take immediate steps to make sure each school district complies with its constitutional duty, Read More