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Pre-K Hangs In Balance As Budget Negotiations Start

smart start
Wake Smart Start

Republican leaders in the legislature are getting ready to hash out their own versions of the state budget. And the House, Senate and Governor’s version are quite different when it comes to pre-K.

North Carolina has long been praised for its commitment to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs. But all three of the current budgets make cuts to those programs, to varying degrees.

The House budget drastically changes the eligibility requirements, raising the cap on family income and limiting the number of qualified families, while at the same time increasing funding and the total number of slots available. The Senate budget maintains eligibility levels, but cuts the budget.

Advocates and experts in Pre-K say the cuts will have long-term negative effects.

"There’s been decades of research that shows children have significant benefits when they’ve attended those programs, so of course, we want to see as many as children benefit from those experiences," said Tracy Zimmerman with the North Carolina Partnership For Children.

Both the Senate and House budgets eliminate the eligibility criterion for students with limited English proficiency.

Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Supervising Editor for Politics and Education. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.
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