In proposing to expand Wake Countys pre-K programs for at-risk children, schools Superintendent Jim Merrill is taking a needed step.
Theres been an admirable attempt to provide pre-K schooling for kids with special needs and poor children who clearly need the help if theyre going to get a worthwhile start in regular school.
Now, Merrill wants to identify more children who may benefit from pre-K and to hire teachers and teachers assistants to help them. Merrills proposal would serve an additional 200 special education students and add 40 slots to the pre-K program for children from low-income families. The Wake system currently has 2,075 students in preschool programs.
It has been well-documented since the beginning of the federal Head Start program decades ago that intervention with younger children to help them and their families really makes a difference in their schooling. That was also found to be true of former Gov. Jim Hunts Smart Start program.
On the state level, Republican legislators arent enthusiastic about pre-K and havent done much to improve it. In fact, theyve reduced the number of kids eligible for public pre-K through funding cuts and clever changes in eligibility rules. The General Assembly approved new income eligibility rules and funding cuts that have reduced the number of children served from a high of 35,000 in 2010 to 26,617 this year.
Pre-K should be expanded, not curtailed. It should be viewed by the state as an investment, not an expense. Credit Jim Merrill with trying to make a move in the right direction.