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Judge: State Can't Limit More at Four Access

North Carolina cannot deny poor children access to a state-run program for pre-kindergartners. That order came down today from Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard E. Manning Jr. It effectively bars implementation of the 2011 budget written by Republican lawmakers that reduces by 80 percent the number of slots for at-risk children in the program formerly known as "More at Four." Manning's ruling says the state cannot implement the budget rule because it violates a landmark Supreme Court ruling that established the standard that all children have the constitutional right to a "sound basic education." WRAL spoke with Republican Senate Education chairman Jerry Tillman who expects the price tag on Manning's ruling will exceed $40 million. "We would love to fully comply," said Tillman. "However, everything costs. The question is, do taxpayers foot the bill, or should parents take a part in paying part of it?" Democratic House Minority Leader Joe Hackney said in a statement: "Judge Manning ruled that Republicans cannot use their budget to deny pre-kindergarten services to at-risk children. Those of us in the minority who voted against this budget and stood up for education applaud this decision." Read WRAL's report here. Read the News and Observer article here. Read the judge's order here. Listen to WFAE's previous coverage on the issue here.