12/17/11 N.C. could get up to $70 million in federal funding for pre-K

N.C. could get up to $70 million in federal funding for pre-K
The Associated Press, The Times-News 12/17/11     
Reprinted with permission.

   RALEIGH — North Carolina will get $70 million to improve early childhood education after being selected Friday for a federal Race to the Top grant, but Gov. Beverly Perdue said that won’t solve a standoff with legislative Republicans on expanding prekindergarten services.

   The Obama administration said North Carolina and eight other states will share $500 million.

   North Carolina’s $70 million will be used to improve the North Carolina Pre-K program, but Perdue’s office said the money can’t be used to expand the program in line with a state judge’s order that no at-risk 4-year-olds can be turned away.

   Getting the money meant North Carolina’s application had to address specific selection criteria that amounted to improving pre-kindergarten quality and services rather than expanding the program’s reach, Perdue spokesman Ben Niolet said.

   “This one-time investment will have a long-term benefit for all of North Carolina’s children. However, it cannot be used by the General Assembly to escape their responsibility to fund N.C. Pre-K,” he said.

   Spokesmen for House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, and Senate president Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, declined comment.

   Perdue, a Democrat, is at odds with the Republican led General Assembly over a judge’s ruling that the state must provide pre-kindergarten education to all at-risk 4-year-olds who are eligible.