Whitney WeaverStaff Writerwweaver@heartlandpublications.com
November 14, 2012
Many parents know that the first few years of a child’s life are the most important in development, and with their children’s best interest at heart, may seek out resources like the Pre-K program to make their little ones school-ready.
On Oct. 18, N.C. Governor Bev Perdue issued Executive Order No. 128 authorizing the expansion of the NC Pre-K program to serve up to 6,300 additional children by Jan. 1, 2013. An estimated 1,000 of those children were served immediately in Pre-K classrooms across the state.
“Through good economic times and bad, North Carolina’s enduring commitment has been to educate our children. Now more than ever, as we sit poised for an economic recovery, any delay in preparing our kids to be tomorrow’s workforce is simply unacceptable,” Perdue said. “After the General Assembly cut early education programs by 20 percent, thousands of our youngest students were cut out of the Pre-K classroom. Today we can welcome many of them in.”
The expansion of the Pre-K program is a step in the right direction for the futures of North Carolina children; however, Ashe County was not among those benefiting from the expansion. Ashe County Schools Director of Exceptional Children and Pre-K, Terry Richardson said, “We did not receive assistance at this time because we did not have a waiting list.”
The fact that Ashe does not have a waiting list for Pre-K does not mean that every child will be enrolled. There are a few criteria children must meet before qualifying. Richardson said the main reason people were denied was because they did not meet the income requirement.
In order to be eligible for Pre-K, a child must be four years old on or before Aug. 31, of the program year and must be from a family whose income is at or below 75 percent of the state median income level.
Exceptions to the income requirement include children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and children with identified risk factors such as a developmental disability, little or no English spoken in the home, educational need based on a developmental screening or a chronic health condition diagnosed by a professional health care provider.
The Pre-K program in Ashe has 122 positions or “slots” with 76 preschoolers in the Ashe County School System (30 children at Blue Ridge Elementary and 46 children at the Ashe Early Learning Center). The remaining 46 students are enrolled in other Pre-K programs at Learning Thru Play, Generations Developmental Day Center, Ashe Developmental Day School, Mt. Jefferson Child Development Center and the Head Start Sizemore Center.