Lawmakers Backtrack on Pre-K Limits

Courtney Williams's picture
Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hours before the state Court of Appeals was set to consider a lawsuit challenging limits lawmakers placed on North Carolina's public school pre-kindergarten program, the General Assembly on Tuesday pulled back from some of the changes.

Lawmakers imposed enrollment caps and required co-payments of up to 10 percent of a family's income for children enrolled in the program for at-risk 4-year-olds. Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ruled that the changes violated the state's constitutional duty to give every child a chance at a sound, basic education.

Manning ordered that the state must admit any eligible 4-year-old to the program, which officials estimated could expand enrollment to 67,000 and cost the state an extra $300 million a year.

North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten had 24,000 students last year and about 35,000 the year before.

State officials have appealed Manning's ruling, and a three-judge panel was set to hear arguments in the case Tuesday afternoon.

 

Legislative leaders said Tuesday morning that the language they approved last year, which appeared to limit the number of students allowed per classroom, didn't convey their actual intent. So, both the House and Senate quickly passed House Bill 966, which they said fixes the problem.

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