The state House gave preliminary approval to new income limits for the states preschool program that would make it off-limits to about 30,000 children who would have qualified under the existing guidelines.
The House voted 62-46 to lower the family income requirement for N.C. Pre-K from about 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 100 percent of federal poverty level. This year, the federal poverty level is $19,530 for a family of three. Most of the children in the program qualify because they meet income guidelines, but the public preschool also enrolls disabled children and children whose parents are in the military, no matter the family income.
The bill drops limited English knowledge as a qualification for preschool. Rep. Justin Burr, an Albemarle Republican and one the bill sponsors, said children with limited English could qualify under other categories.
The program, started in 2001, helps prepare children for school who are considered at risk of failing.
In his budget proposal, Gov. Pat McCrory also reduced the income ceiling though not as low as Burrs bill. McCrory, who places the ceiling at 130 percent of the poverty level, also adds $52.4 million and 5,000 slots to the program over the next two years.
Almost 25,000 children are now in the Pre-K program, though many more qualify. Republicans said they were bringing the number of children who can qualify in line with state funding.
Lets be realistic, said Rep. Marilyn Avila, a Wake Republican and a bill sponsor. Either the state changes the income limit or has these massive numbers of people standing in line with no hope of getting in, she said.
Democrats said the state is aiming too low and putting more needy children in jeopardy of school failure.
This bill says we dont have to educate our children to take the jobs of the future, said Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat.
Staff writer Lynn Bonner
House passes right-to-work bill
A bill outlawing any contract that makes union hiring a requirement has passed the North Carolina House.
The proposal was approved Thursday over the objections of Democrats who said it violates the National Labor Relations Act.
Republican Rep. Tom Murry of Morrisville said the proposal is meant to prevent unfair business practices.
Democratic Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville said federal law says employment conditions are a matter for the parties in a deal to decide for themselves, not the government. He said the bill would guarantee a costly court challenge, which has happened in other states that have passed similar laws.
North Carolina already has laws forbidding employers from making union membership mandatory.
The bill now goes to the Senate.
Senate OKs higher boat fees
Boat owners across North Carolina would face higher fees to pay for coastal dredging projects thanks to legislation that received a preliminary OK from the state Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown of Jacksonville says the measure attempts to address dwindling federal funds for removing sand from shallow navigational channels. It passed 35-13 Thursday.
The bill would raise titling fees and vessel numbering fees for most watercraft and large boats. The current $15 annual numbering fee, for example, would increase to $25 or $50, depending on the vessels length. The titling fee would be $30, up from $20.
Millions of dollars in proceeds would enter a special fund to provide matching money for dredging projects.
A final Senate vote is expected next week before the bill goes to the House.