Republicans: Judge confused about Pre-K program

July 19, 2011 3:16:18 PM PDT
One day after Judge Howard Manning ruled to eliminate restrictions on pre-kindergarten programs, Republicans are arguing the judge is confused.

They say the ruling is a misunderstanding of their budget and that they have and will continue to help at-risk children.

Judge Manning ruled the state budget is cheating poor children out of educational opportunities. He believes the changes to the More and Four pre-kindergarten program limits enrollment and charges certain families a fee, creating barriers for tens of thousands of children.

"There isn't a barrier and we've only been in the fiscal year for two weeks, and the classes haven't even started yet so how he'd know there's a barrier before there's a barrier is beyond me," House Majority Leader Representative Paul "Skip" Stam said.

Stam believes Manning misread or misunderstood the budget. He also says lawmakers are not limiting the number of at-risk children who can participate but setting limits on those who are not at risk.

"The state is going to provide subsidized daycare learning opportunities for poor children before the ruling, after the ruling, last year, next year, that's not the issue," Stam added.

Stam clarifies the fees are not for at-risk children.

"The co-pay is not for the at-risk kids, it's for the non at-risk kids," he said.

The Representative says the Republican budget writers did not limit the number of at-risk kids who can enroll in the program as Judge Manning stated. And there is something Republicans have done in elementary schools not mentioned in the order.

"He completely failed to notice other parts of the strategy which included adding 1,000 teachers at the lowest grade levels," Stam said.

Manning's ruling focused on Pre-K -- what he and Governor Perdue see as a key time for at-risk children.

"When those children come to the door, they'll be able to get in and have the opportunity to then compete fairly with all the other kids in the school system," Perdue said.

Now, the attorney general's office is reviewing the ruling to see if and how state lawmakers should respond.

To read Judge Manning's ruling, click here [pdf].

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