The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA) are calling on the North Carolina Supreme Court to require the state to fulfill its commitment to give all at-risk children an opportunity to attend pre-kindergarten programs to prepare them to succeed in school.
NCSBA and NSBA have filed an amicus brief in Hoke County Board of Education v. State of North Carolina that urges the Court to rule that the state legislature, through funding cuts and legislation that restructured the “More at Four” program, abandoned its constitutional responsibility to provide the services that would afford “at-risk” children equal access to the opportunity to receive a sound basic education. After expanding the “More at Four” prekindergarten program in response to previous court orders, the state legislature in 2011 severely limited access to the program through substantial budget cuts and caps on the percentage of at-risk children permitted to enroll.
“Research has proven countless times that a quality early childhood education benefits all children, and it is most beneficial for children living in poverty and other at-risk situations,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “Prekindergarten programs help the neediest children get the interventions they need so that they can succeed in elementary school and beyond.”
In a series of lawsuits that began two decades ago, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that all children residing in North Carolina have a state constitutional right to the “equal opportunity to receive a sound basic education.”
“The state chose to offer these critical prekindergarten programs to meet its constitutional obligations, and it must not be allowed to back away from that commitment,” said NCSBA Executive Director Ed Dunlap, Jr. “School boards across North Carolina are committed to giving each and every child, including those deemed at risk, a strong public education, and we hope the state will fulfill its obligations as well.”