Gov. Beverly Perdue is stepping into a battle over North Carolina's efforts to prepare all 4-year-olds for school.
Perdue on Wednesday ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to offer pre-kindergarten education to all eligible 4-year-olds without saying how the state would pay for a potential flood of thousands of children.
The state's More At Four pre-kindergarten program last year served about 32,000 4-year-olds. An agency survey found there may be nearly twice that number of eligible children.
A Superior Court judge ruled last month that the state is required to serve any 4-year-old deemed at risk of falling behind their peers.
Legislative Republicans wanted to cut spending on the revamped program by 20 percent and charge parents a co-payment of up to 10 percent of their income.
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