Children of Eastern North Carolina Lose Again

Rob Thompson, Executive Director of the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children, recently wrote an article about how the 2011-2013 state budget cuts valuable health resources for at-risk children in Eastern North Carolina. The article begins:

“We know that healthy children learn better, grow stronger and become more successful adults. Unfortunately, children in eastern North Carolina have traditionally suffered from disproportionately high rates of obesity, infant mortality, smoking and other health-related problems. Rather than closing the gap between eastern North Carolina and the rest of the state, the 2011-13 state budget will only make the disparity worse.

In an effort to improve the health and well-being of our children, federal, state and local governments have spent decades creating a broad infrastructure of health-related programs and services. While this infrastructure has never worked perfectly, it plays a crucial role in our continuing efforts to improve children’s health, particularly in areas suffering from a high concentration of poverty (in three eastern North Carolina counties, the childhood poverty rate tops 40% and in over a dozen others the rate exceeds 30%)…”

Read the rest of the article at NCPolicyWatch.com.

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Sign the Petition to Protect Food Aid for Children

Over half of all households receiving food stamps have children, yet Congress may now take away many of these meals from our neediest.

The congressional “super committee” in the coming months will cut trillions from government spending, and some members prefer to slash vital support to the nation’s children in order to protect tax cuts for the wealthy.

Sign this petition and tell Congress: As millions remain jobless, protect food aid for children!

As the economy continues to struggle and millions of Americans are still out of work, we need to make sure the next generation of American scientists, nurses, and teachers has the food they need at home to succeed.

Please let the committee members know that children should not go hungry while the wealthy enjoy tax breaks. Take action to protect food stamps and other programs like it.

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Editorial: North Carolina’s Clear Pre-K Responsibility

News stories and editorials about the state of early education in North Carolina appear almost daily. The Raleigh-based newspaper, The News & Observer, featured another piece in support of quality early education for North Carolina’s youngest children this morning.  An excerpt by authors Erwin Byrd and Lewis Pitts reads:
“North Carolina, in More at Four and Smart Start, developed an early childhood education system of which we could be proud, even as we urged its expansion so that all kids who needed it were served. NC Pre-K, the new name for state-funded pre-kindergarten, can also make us proud, if the court acts quickly to salvage it. The at-risk 4-year-olds waiting in line for classrooms statewide, as well as future 4-year-olds, have a fundamental, constitutional right to the opportunity to receive a sound, basic education. It’s imperative that we all ensure that they get it.”

(Click to continue reading North Carolina’s Clear Pre-K Responsibility )
 

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Lemonade Stand Raises Money for Early Care and Education

MomsRising.org, an organization working to achieve economic security for all families, and Together NC, a collection of more than 115 non-profit organizations, service providers, and professional associations, set up lemonade stands across the state to raise money for children’s causes. Children, parents, and early childhood advocates raised money, one cup at a time, for kids’ programs like Smart Start while also raising awareness about the devastating cuts to these programs.

Recently, The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., the organization that leads Smart Start, received a $268.76 donation from a lemonade stand fundraiser!

“North Carolina’s early childhood programs have been a model for other states, because they’ve gotten real results for our children,” said Beth Messersmith, state campaign director for MomsRising.org.“It simply doesn’t make sense to dismantle these programs when we’re trying to set our kids up for a positive future.”

Following the lemonade stands, parents and children delivered the money raised to the Office of State Controller to deposit in the NC General Fund.

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Gov. Perdue Takes a Stand for Early Education

Gov. Perdue speaking to early education advocates in 2010.Today, Gov. Bev Perdue instructed the state agency in charge of North Carolina’s pre-kindergarten program to preserve the high standards, quality and accessibility of this crucial academic program for at-risk children.

The General Assembly’s budget made significant changes to NC Pre-K (formerly known as More at Four). Changes include a 20 percent cut in funding that reduces the availability of the program to at-risk children, a parent co-pay that could charge families up to ten percent of their income, and the transfer of the program from the Department of Public Instruction to the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Today marks an important day for early education in North Carolina,” said Dr. Olson Huff, Board Chair of The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc.  “Thanks to Governor Perdue’s actions, that state’s youngest children can continue to benefit from early learning programs that we know improve academic performance.”

“Her decision is backed by years of research that shows learning begins at birth, well before children enter Kindergarten at age 5,” continues Huff. “It is further supported by studies proving that the state’s early learning programs, Smart Start and what was formerly More at Four, are moving education in the right direction, improving our children’s reading and math scores in elementary school.”

“We thank Governor Perdue for taking a strong stand today to ensure a brighter future for our youngest children, especially at-risk children,” says Huff. “Her actions will strengthen the entire education system, benefitting children, schools, and the future of North Carolina as a whole.”

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NC Judge Rules for First Time that Early Education Vital to Right to Sound Basic Education

North Carolina Superior Court Judge Howard Manning , Jr. issued yesterday the first court ruling that acknowledges the pivotal role early education plays in allowing at-risk children to avail themselves of their right to a sound basic education.

“Put another way, each at-risk child under age 4 that is receiving services from Smart Start will be better prepared, physically and developmentally, to benefit from NCPK’s educationally based prekindergarten programs when they arrive at age 4,” Judge Manning wrote.

Smart Start is North Carolina’s public/private partnership that improves children’s early care and learning programs; provides parents with tools that support them in raising healthy, happy, successful children; and ensures that children have access to preventive health care.

“Today is truly extraordinary. For the first time ever, a court in the United States has said that a child’s ability to access his or her right to obtain a sound basic education begins at birth. Once again, North Carolina makes early learning history,” said Dr. Olson Huff, chair of the board of The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., the organization that oversees Smart Start.

The ruling is part of the long-running Leandro case. That case established the standard that all children have the constitutional right to a sound basic education. In 2000, Judge Manning said that the state was obligated to provide pre-kindergarten education to “at risk” children. North Carolina began More at Four in response to the ruling. In June, the court held a hearing in which the Leandro plaintiffs challenged the budget cuts enacted by the legislature for the coming year, particularly the changes to More at Four.

Judge Manning emphasized the importance of early education throughout the ruling. “The bottom line . . . is that the State, using the combination of Smart Start and the More at Four Pre-Kindergarten Programs, have indeed selected pre-kindergarten combined with early childhood programs, as the means to ‘achieve constitutional compliance’ for at-risk prospective enrollees.”

 The ruling is online at http://bit.ly/mQxCoy.

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Civitas Continues Attacks on Smart Start

The Civitas Institute will go to any lengths in its attempts to defame Smart Start, regardless of what happens to children in the process. It continues to rehash its same old attacks on Durham’s efforts to help working families afford child care.

In response to a recent news brief from the Civitas Institute, Dan Hudgins, Chair of Child Care Services Association’s Board, said the following:

“Andrew Henson of Civitas once again posts a piece full of false allegations and a video obviously edited to convince readers of his falsehoods. His anger is misdirected. State budget cuts to Smart Start funds, growing populations of vulnerable children, the unavailability of expected federal funds and lower attrition rates meant there was not enough money to continue to help all of the working families who needed it. How many times will Henson recycle the same inaccurate propaganda? And in an ironic twist, Henson and Civitas argue that Durham would be better served by awarding the funding to the local Department of Social Services (DSS). Yet, the Durham DSS returned to the state this year almost $600,000 of money that could have helped some of the 2,000 Durham children on their subsidy waiting list.”

The Durham Partnership for Children also issued a statement, outlining its process for awarding funding to community providers. Board Chair Angie Welsh concluding by saying:

“The Partnership stands on the principles of integrity, accountability, and transparency on critical matters that impact our young children and our community’s future.”

Download the Durham Partnership for Children statement.

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