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Pre-K proposal changed
House committee recommends eligibility adjustment
 
Published Wednesday, March 7, 2012 6:25 am
by Sommer Brokaw

North Carolina legislators revised an early childhood proposal that agitated advocates.

On the heels of Gov. Beverly Perdue creating 2,000 additional slots for North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten, the House Select Committee on Early Childhood Education Committee released a draft report that recommended sweeping changes to the program.

The two recommended changes that caught the most heat and later revised were changes to income eligibility and the focus on encouraging increased participation among private early childhood providers as opposed to public schools.

A change to income eligibility requirements for the program would have been to serve children at or below the federal poverty level. The current eligibility is capped at or below 75 percent of the state median income.

Anna Carter, deputy director at the State Division of Child Development and Early Education, said that 35 percent of those currently being served would not have been eligible under the income eligibility requirements outlined in the draft report.

Rep. Rosa Gill (D-Wake), a retired educator who is a member of House Select Committee on Early Childhood Education, recommended the provision to move North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten to private child care services be revised.

“My proposal was that we utilize all of the different providers: the non-profit, the for-profit, the Head Start, the public school system, and if there are any other child care services based on their capability, if they had capacity, if they could fulfill the needs of children, and if they provide quality instruction for children,” she said. “They did accept my amendment to change it, but that doesn’t mean it is going to get changed.”

The Select Committee took out the recommended changes to income eligibility and the move to private childcare services in its recommendations to the General Assembly on March 1. Training for pre-kindergarten teachers remained in the proposed changes as well as constant monitoring of pre-kindergarten programs.

Gill said she expects the revised legislative proposal to go to the budget committee because she thinks it’s going to be an appropriation that will need appropriate funding.

North Carolina early childhood education advocates applauded the changes.

“Today, the legislative process worked at its best,” North Carolina Partnership for Children president Stephanie Fanjul said in a statement. “The committee put out its recommendations, asked the public for comment, and adapted their approach based on that feedback and expertise. That is democracy in action.”

Gill said that she’s pretty sure that the changes came from the community. “I think there was an outpour of the community objecting to some of these recommendations,” she said.

“The leaders of the committee had two things in mind: One was to balance the budget on the backs of some of our pre-school kids’ programs and the other was to privatize pre-K.”

Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, and Rep. Rayne Brown, R-Davidson, co-chairs of the House Select Committee, could not be reached for comment.

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