(Rocky Mount Telegram) A North Carolina appeals court ruled Tuesday that any at-risk child whose parents seek admission to the state’s pre-kindergarten academic enrichment program must be admitted, but judges stopped short of requiring a vast expansion of the program to include every needy 4-year-old.
The unanimous three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals upheld Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr., who ruled last summer that legislative changes to a state program designed to help disadvantaged 4-year-olds gear up for school would deprive most from benefiting.
“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,” Appeals Court Judge Rick Elmore wrote.
The changes written by Republican lawmakers leading the General Assembly for the first time in over a century meant the state was abandoning its constitutional duty to give every child a chance at a sound, basic education. The state Supreme Court selected Manning to oversee compliance with the court’s earlier rulings that found state officials had deprived poor children an equal shot at the education guaranteed by the North Carolina constitution.
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