NC Judge Rules for First Time that Early Education Vital to Right to Sound Basic Education

North Carolina Superior Court Judge Howard Manning , Jr. issued yesterday 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.

“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.

Smart Start is North Carolina’s public/private partnership that improves children’s early care and learning programs; provides parents with tools that support them in raising healthy, happy, successful children; and ensures that children have access to preventive health care.

“Today is truly extraordinary. For the first time ever, a court in the United States has said that a child’s ability to access his or her right to obtain a sound basic education begins at birth. Once again, North Carolina makes early learning history,” said Dr. Olson Huff, chair of the board of The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., the organization that oversees Smart Start.

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.

Judge Manning emphasized the importance of early education throughout the ruling. “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



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2 responses to “NC Judge Rules for First Time that Early Education Vital to Right to Sound Basic Education

  1. Workinggal

    Why should a working parent be made to pay for their child to go to pre-k when you have people out there who can work and won’t. My opinion is this….start cutting out some of the food stamps, welfare checks, and medicaid to some of these people who sit around and do nothing but live off of the state. Better yet…..after the state has to pay for a women to have two kids, it should be required they she gets her tubes tied. Stop paying for housing when their income is only verified once a year. I should be manditory that once a person walks off and quits a job, someone needs to notify DSS. I don’t mean to sound rude, but I pay taxes, have been working since I was 16 years old, and I try to live right. It upsets me when the working people are always the ones who are being made to pay for something when other people can walk around free.

    • justice

      First, it’s morally the right thing to do…to provide a sound basic education for every citizen. Secondly, as you reference the economic principals…it makes good financial sense to offer everyone a sound basic education without regard to income. You sound like a hard worker which means you are probably not in the richest 15% of citizens and cannot afford private education to separate your prodigy from the “rest of them.” Therefore, all our children are going to school together and I don’t know about you, but I would like them all to arrive in kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed, not just for their sake but for all their classmates’. No one likes a free loader which you describe in your post but there are circumstances, especially in this weak economy, where people like yourself need assistance between jobs. That’s the main tenent of our social democracy…equal opportunity.

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