Perdue making early childhood education her priority

March 14, 2012 11:44:58 AM PDT
Gov. Bev Perdue made early childhood education her priority Wednesday.

The governor spoke at annual Head Start Association conference. It comes just two weeks after she shifted millions of dollars to enroll an extra 2,000 at-risk 4 year olds in Pre-K programs.

Perdue made an impassioned argument Wednesday morning, railing on the Republican-led Legislature for the budget that slashed early education funding.

"We've proved it and proved it and proved it," Perdue said. "Why are we having to prove it one more time in front of the General Assembly. There continues to be this ongoing battle for funds, support, understanding, and I would even question the need to develop some compassion."

Her message brought cheers from the crowd of Head Start teachers and early education supporters.

Just last month, a legislative committee backed off a recommendation to privatize NC Pre-K, but left the door open to reduce the number of families who qualify for state help, which left some advocates leery of Republican intentions.

However, after Wednesday's fiery speech, the governor softened her tone saying her counterparts on the right got it wrong, but can still course correct.

"I think initially there must have been a disconnect otherwise well intentioned people -- and I'm sure they are -- wouldn't have cut funding for NC Pre-K and Smart Start the way it was cut," Perdue said. "Even in difficult times, you don't eat your seed corn and these little kids are our seed corn, the next generation of workers."

The Legislature comes back to Raleigh in May -- usually a time set aside to tweak the budget.

Republican sources have said they don't expect many changes, but there's bound to be lobbying between now and then.

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