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Kristina Washington-Pinder is preschool teacher and education advocate in Wake County, North Carolina.

I am a teacher in the NC Pre-K program working in Raleigh, North Carolina. I have been teaching preschool since 2005, and More at Four/NC Pre-K since 2007.  The North Carolina House of Representatives is considering changes to the NC Pre-K “at risk” definition that would leave more than 9,000 children currently enrolled children ineligible for the program.

The purpose of NC Pre-K is to provide high quality education to better prepare children for kindergarten. At risk children in NC were defined by these factors:

  • Child must be four years of age before August 31st of the program year.
  • Child’s family makes at or below 75% of the State Median Income Level.
  • 20% may have parents who make above the 75% if they have one of these risk factors- Identified developmental delay, Limited English Proficiency, an educational need indicated by an approved developmental screening.
  • Having a chronic health condition indicated by a diagnosis from a professional health care provider.

Cuts to NC Pre-K would affect North Carolina families who are most in need; families who want their children to achieve academic success, regardless of the constraints of their household income. When these children reach kindergrarten, they will be expected to preform on par with children who have been exposed to high-quality early learning opportunities since birth.

Children do not cease to be “at risk” simply because the state changes eligibility requirements. Changing the maximum income requirements will shut out about 9,000 children who would have been able to enter the program. And yet, nothing will have changed for these families; they still desire quality childcare and education for their children. Only those learning opportunities will be financially out of reach for their households.

I urge our legislators to take a moment to think about the 9,000 children who will be entering our kindergarten classrooms without high-qualty early learning experiences. Failure to invest in these children is a failure to invest in the very future of our state.

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