Statement from Chris Hill, director of the NC Justice Center's Education and Law Project, on Pre-K ruling
RALEIGH (August 21, 2012) – This morning, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a unanimous ruling upholding Superior Court Judge Howard Manning’s decision to protect North Carolina’s pre-kindergarten program.
North Carolina’s Pre-K program is widely touted as one of the most effective prekindergarten programs in the nation. The state’s own research shows that the program was very effective in eliminating the achievement gap for at-risk students before they enter the kindergarten door. Despite this clear evidence, however, the North Carolina Legislature passed legislation in 2011 to restrict the admission of four-year olds in the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten Program (NCPK). The legislation cut the funding and capped the number of at-risk children from enrolling in the program.
In July 2011, Judge Manning issued an order prohibiting the legislation from going forward. He also ruled that the state could not enforce any other artificial rules or barriers to deny eligible at-risk four-year-olds admission to NCPK. Today’s ruling upheld Judge Manning’s order, making it clear that the State may not take any actions to deny any eligible at-risk four-year-old admission to NCPK and must provide services to any eligible child who applies.
The Court reiterated that the State has a constitutional duty to provide all children a sound basic education. Today’s ruling will help ensure that at-risk children are prepared to obtain such an education.