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Child Advocates Upset With How Extra Pre-K Spots Are Funded

Some child advocates are unhappy with Governor Bev Perdue’s decision to add thousands of pre-kindergarten slots because it’s at the expense of other programs that impact children like foster care.  It also transfers money from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

A couple weeks ago, Perdue announced the state was restoring some of the cuts to its pre-kindergarten program.  She planned to shuffle money around to add an extra 6,300 spots.  Groups that work with children applauded the move. 

“Our first reaction was that it was great news,” says Rob Thompson the head of Covenant with North Carolina’s Children.  “We certainly have more kids in North Carolina who need a high quality pre-kindergarten education than who are getting it right now.” 

But a week later, the state made it known where the money was coming from.  Perdue is using $20 million from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services budget to pay for the extra slots.  About a quarter of that comes from a program that helps disabled children, another $5 million from a program that provides medicine for people with HIV, and another $3 million from foster care services.  

That shuffling did not sit well with Thompson.  He says those programs, especially foster care, could use the money. 

“If you look at how children are treated when they come into foster care, many of them don’t receive adequate mental health assessments or treatment.  So before we move money away from that priority to another, we’ve got to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make sure those kids are getting what they need,” says Thompson. 

Expenses for these programs are coming in under budget, so Perdue believes money will be available to pay for the pre-k program without cutting any services. 

But Thompson worries it’s too early in the year to determine how much extra money will be left over in June.