Early Education Executive Order
Special Report - August 12, 2011
On Wednesday, Governor Beverly Perdue issued an executive order, directing the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to accept all eligible children into the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten Program despite recent funding cuts, as well as to work with the state’s educational agencies to ensure that “current academic standards and operation” are “maintained and strengthened” while oversight of the program is transferred. “It is absolutely essential that this program remain an academic Pre-K program,” said Gov. Perdue in a press release issued August 10. “I will continue to fight to make sure our children have access to the quality education system that our Constitution guarantees.”
During the recent legislative session, the General Assembly worked to balance the budget without raising taxes, meaning that many state programs faced budget cuts. Funding for the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten Program (NC Pre-K), previously known as More-At-Four, was reduced and oversight for the program was transferred from the state’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to the DHHS.
In the press release, Gov. Perdue citied last month’s order by Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, which ruled that “[t]he 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 of services of the NCPK to any eligible at-risk four year old that applies.” While legislative leadership at the time expressed confidence that Judge Manning’s ruling would not cause an imbalance in the state budget, the Governor’s executive order appears to present that possibility by potentially adding many children to the state Pre-K program.
Governor Perdue addressed that concern in her press release. “If the funds that the General Assembly has provided are insufficient to cover the constitutional mandate for these services, I will call upon the legislature to appropriate additional funds to meet our obligation,” the governor commented. “However, if additional funds become necessary for NC Pre-K, the General Assembly must not inflict further cuts on other educational programs.”
In response, Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanley), was quoted in the Greensboro News & Record as stating, “It seems like [the Governor is] trying to create a line-item veto where she can pick and choose what she wants.”
Additionally, according to the News and Observer, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said that Governor Perdue is “going to put our AAA bond rating at risk,” by enrolling more children than the State can pay for through its current budget. He also warned that enrolling all eligible children in the program, as the governor desires, could cost the state $100 million or more. “We don't have the classrooms, we don't have the teachers, all of those things,” Senator Berger told the N&O. “The infrastructure doesn't exist for that.”
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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