Thousands More At Risk Pre-K Students Enrolling Than First Expected

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina officials carrying out Gov. Beverly Perdue's directive to expand the state's pre-kindergarten program say another 4,000 at-risk 4-year-olds could enroll very soon, rather than the 1,000 first expected.

Health and Human Services Secretary Al Delia said Friday the higher number came after counties were surveyed about classroom space and waiting lists. Delia's agency is now examining exactly where children could enroll next month.

Perdue announced last week she would shift $20 million in funds to enroll 6,300 children in the program this school year. The governor said she's obligated because of a court ruling.

Delia's office said part of the money could come from foster care services and a program to pay for medicine for people with AIDS, but no services would be cut and sources could change.

Gov. Beverly Perdue is moving again into disputed territory with the Republican-led Legislature, shifting $20 million to accommodate up to another 6,300 youngsters by January in the state's pre-kindergarten academic enrichment program.

Perdue said Thursday she is reallocating projected spare funds.

A state appeals court ruled nearly two months ago that any at-risk 4-year-old whose parents seek admission to the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten program must be admitted. The court stopped short of requiring a sharp expansion of the program to include every needy child.

Republicans lawmakers cut funding by 20 percent and renamed the program previously called More At Four. GOP leaders said they wanted to appeal this summer's court ruling.

Spokesmen for the top Republican lawmakers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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