NC high court weighs need for statewide pre-K plan - WNCN: News, Weather

NC high court weighs need for statewide pre-K plan

Posted: Updated:
RALEIGH, N.C. -

North Carolina's Supreme Court started work Tuesday on deciding whether the state constitution's guarantee that every child is entitled to a chance at a sound, basic education requires giving needy 4-year-olds extra help that one estimate said could cost up to $300 million a year.
    
The state's high court heard attorneys argue in the latest chapter in a 19-year-old dispute brought by poor school districts in Hoke, Halifax, Robeson, Cumberland and Vance counties.
    
The court ruled in 2004 that the constitutional right to a sound, basic education includes helping young children who are at risk of falling behind their peers. Then-Gov. Mike Easley and legislative leaders committed to a program of pre-kindergarten services then named More at Four and told the court it would be gradually expanded to enroll 40,000 4-year-olds statewide at a cost of about $160 million.
    
But in 2011, new Republican majorities in the General Assembly effectively limited the program they renamed North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten by restricting the number of slots for at-risk 4-year-olds and cutting funding by 20 percent.
    
NC Pre-K enrolled about 25,000 children in 2012, down from a peak of about 35,000 in 2010. A September 2012 survey found that nearly 12,000 children were waiting for Pre-K services.
    
Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr., selected by the Supreme Court to oversee compliance with its earlier school-funding decisions, ruled in 2011 that state officials could not create barriers that would deny an eligible child admission where a program exists. Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, representing the General Assembly, appealed that decision.
    
Expanding the program to all 67,000 children who may be eligible could cost taxpayers up to $300 million a year, former Gov. Beverly Perdue's administration estimated last year. The state Health and Human Services Department, which now runs the program, said current enrollment in Pre-K is 26,707, a spokeswoman said.
    
Cooper's top appeals lawyer, John Maddrey, told the court Tuesday that state officials believe it's still a goal to expand the program helping needy 4-year-olds get ready for kindergarten, but its funding and scope aren't for a judge to decide.
    
"Their goal is to create a statewide system of pre-kindergarten and expand it over time, eventually to serve all people. That remains the goal. But that's not a binding, enforceable obligation of the state that requires the legislative branch to fund the program to achieve that goal," Maddrey said.
    
An attorney for the poor school districts countered that governors and legislative leaders hadn't simply committed to a plan or program that they could fund more or less based on their judgment. State officials were forced to respond after the Supreme Court determined a constitutional violation by failing to prepare needy 4-year-olds for school, attorney Melanie Black Dubis said.
    
"The state is saying in response to that, 'Well, we aspire to it. We'll get around to it. It's on our to-do list, eventually, maybe, to remedy a constitutional violation,' " she said.
    
The State Board of Education, for years a defendant in the school funding lawsuits, decided to switch sides, hire their own lawyers, and defend Manning's decision. The state school board's attorney, former Supreme Court justice Jim Exum, said previous legislative decisions agreeing to remedy a constitutional violation can't be discarded without something else in its place.
    
"That's the key to this case," he said.
 

  • Back To SchoolMore>>

  • Dr. Campbell: The role of vaccines in school

    Dr. Campbell: The role of vaccines in school

    Thursday, August 21 2014 7:20 AM EDT2014-08-21 11:20:53 GMT
    Infectious diseases account for millions of school days lost each year for kindergarten through 12th-grade public school students in the United States. Forty percent of children aged five to 17 years missed three or more school days in the past year because of illness or injury.
    Infectious diseases account for millions of school days lost each year for kindergarten through 12th-grade public school students in the United States. Forty percent of children aged five to 17 years missed three or more school days in the past year because of illness or injury.
  • Durham Rescue Mission giving away backpacks, supplies to kids

    Durham Rescue Mission giving away backpacks, supplies to kids

    Thursday, August 21 2014 7:09 AM EDT2014-08-21 11:09:22 GMT
    The Durham Rescue Mission, with the help of GSK, is giving away backpacks to needy children.The Durham Rescue Mission, with the help of GSK, is giving away backpacks to needy children.
    The Durham Rescue Mission is making sure all kids get the supplies they need for the upcoming school year.
    The Durham Rescue Mission is making sure all kids get the supplies they need for the upcoming school year.
  • Tips for smart back-to-school shopping

    Tips for smart back-to-school shopping

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 10:03 AM EDT2014-08-20 14:03:52 GMT
    File photoFile photo
    Parents and students across North Carolina are preparing for traditional calendar schools to start back from summer break. That means parents will be stocking up on the necessary back to school supplies.
    Parents and students across North Carolina are preparing for traditional calendar schools to start back from summer break. That means parents will be stocking up on the necessary back to school supplies.
  • PoliticsMore>>

  • NC legislators approve regulating toxic coal ash

    NC legislators approve regulating toxic coal ash

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 8:36 PM EDT2014-08-21 00:36:33 GMT
    File photoFile photo
    North Carolina lawmakers have approved legislation they say makes the state the nation's first to address decades of toxic water pollution from residue left behind by coal-burning electricity plants.
    North Carolina lawmakers have approved legislation they say makes the state the nation's first to address decades of toxic water pollution from residue left behind by coal-burning electricity plants.
  • State officials hear from both sides of NC fracking debate

    State officials hear from both sides of NC fracking debate

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 5:56 PM EDT2014-08-20 21:56:13 GMT
    People rallying outside ahead of Wednesday's public comment hearing on fracking.People rallying outside ahead of Wednesday's public comment hearing on fracking.
    Supporters and opponents of the process of hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “fracking,” are today getting an opportunity to voice their opinions on the process.
    Supporters and opponents of the process of hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “fracking,” are today getting an opportunity to voice their opinions on the process.
  • Hunter fills Martin's NC associate justice seat

    Hunter fills Martin's NC associate justice seat

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 1:44 PM EDT2014-08-20 17:44:30 GMT
    Judge Robert Hunter, of Morehead City, was appointed an associate Supreme Court justice.Judge Robert Hunter, of Morehead City, was appointed an associate Supreme Court justice.
    Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Judge Robert Hunter of Morehead City on Wednesday to become an associate Supreme Court justice.
    Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Judge Robert Hunter of Morehead City on Wednesday to become an associate Supreme Court justice.
Powered by WorldNow

1205 Front St., Raleigh
N.C., 27609

Telephone: 919.836.1717
Fax: 919.836.1687
Email: newstips@wncn.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.