Appeals Court Upholds Pre-K Ruling
Special Report - August 24, 2012
This week, a unanimous three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld a July 2011 order by Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning that the “State . . . shall not deny any eligible at-risk four year old admission” to its prekindergarten program. The State Attorney General, on behalf of Republican leaders in the General Assembly, had appealed Judge Manning’s order in a lawsuit involving a dispute over certain portions of the 2011-2012 State Budget, which reduced funding for the state-sponsored Pre-Kindergarten Program (NC Pre-K), and limited the number of spots for children. After the budget was enacted in July 2011, Judge Manning issued a Memorandum of Decision and Order that stated, in part: “The State of North Carolina shall not deny any eligible at-risk four year old admission to the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten Program (NCPK) and shall provide the quality services of the NCPK to any eligible at-risk four year old that applies.”
In its decision issued on August 21, the State Court of Appeals ruled that, “the trial court acted within its authority to mandate the unrestricted acceptance of all ‘at-risk’ four year old prospective enrollees who seek to enroll in existing pre-kindergarten programs across the State.” The appeals court also emphasized “that while [the More at Four Pre-K program] was the remedy chosen by the legislative and executive branches in 2001 to deal with the problems presented by ‘at risk’ four year olds, it is not necessarily a permanent or everlasting solution to the problem.” The court continued, “It would be unwise for the courts to attempt to lock the legislative and executive branches into a solution to a problem that no longer works, or addresses a problem that no longer exists. Therefore, should the problem at hand cease to exist or should its solution be superseded by another approach, the State should be allowed to modify or eliminate [More at Four].
Governor Beverly Perdue, who issued an executive order in August 2011 directing the Department of Health and Human Services to accept all eligible children into the State Pre-K program, heralded the appeals court decision. “[This] unanimous decision provides both a boost for struggling families and hope for every child across our state,” Perdue said in a statement. “We need to come together on a bipartisan basis and recommit ourselves to early childhood education.”
According to the Associated Press, legislative leaders intend to appeal the ruling to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Early Education Executive Order - August 12, 2011
Judge Challenges State Budget - July 21, 2011
Legislature Musters Historic Veto Override - June 16, 2011
Governor Vetoes State Budget - June 13, 2011
State Challenges Education Ruling - January 14, 2003
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