FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Leaders Tout North Carolina Landmark Decision
Raleigh, NC—North Carolina Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, Jr. issued the first court ruling that acknowledges the pivotal role early education plays in allowing at-risk children to avail themselves of their right to a sound basic education. He issued the ruling earlier this week. Leaders from around the country are touting the landmark decision.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time that a court has recognized what decades of scientific research have shown—that the foundation for learning (whether strong or weak) is built long before a child starts kindergarten. Indeed, science tells us that early experiences literally shape the architecture of the developing brain. With this knowledge as a context, the Court’s decision is legally responsible, economically wise, and morally commendable,” said Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.
“This will be a moment written about in future history books. For the first time, a court has acknowledged the influential role of early learning, beginning at birth, in the education continuum,” said Charles Kolb, president of the Committee for Economic Development. “The ruling is based on the same profound science that has rallied business leaders to support quality early education as part of America’s education system. North Carolina is once again making early education history. I can only hope that the rest of the country will not be far behind.”
The ruling is part of the long-running Leandro case. That case established the standard that all children have the constitutional right to a sound basic education. In 2000, Judge Manning said that the state was obligated to provide pre-kindergarten education to “at-risk” children. North Carolina began More at Four in response to the ruling. In June, the court held a hearing in which the Leandro plaintiffs challenged the budget cuts enacted by the legislature for the coming year, particularly the changes to More at Four.
Throughout the decision, Judge Manning emphasized the importance of early education, calling particular attention to Smart Start, North Carolina’s early childhood system that serves children birth to five. “Put another way, each at-risk child under age 4 that is receiving services from Smart Start will be better prepared, physically and developmentally, to benefit from NCPK’s educationally based prekindergarten programs when they arrive at age 4.” Judge Manning wrote.
He noted, “The bottom line . . . is that the State, using the combination of Smart Start and the More at Four Pre-Kindergarten Programs, have indeed selected pre-kindergarten combined with early childhood programs, as the means to ‘achieve constitutional compliance’ for at-risk prospective enrollees.”
The ruling is online at http://bit.ly/mQxCoy.
Smart Start is the system that brings together all the people involved in a young child’s life—families, teachers, doctors, caregivers, social workers, and many others—to ensure every child has all they need for healthy growth and development. For more information, visit www.smartstart.org