Some of NC’s top business leaders team up to tackle poor pre-Kindergarten enrollment

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Executives from some of the state’s most successful companies, including SAS and Red Hat, pushed Thursday for the expansion of North Carolina’s pre-Kindergarten program.

The group spoke at Millbrook Elementary in Wake County.

SAS’s CEO, Jim Goodnight, is leading the charge to increase the number of students in the program, so he created a task force to research the reasons behind the poor enrollment.

A Duke University study found 44 counties — with thousands of eligible but unserved students — declined any expansion dollars in 2017. That trend continued in 2018.

The National Institute of Early Education Research found 120,884 4-year-old children in North Carolina. Of those, 52 percent are eligible for NC pre-K, but only 47 percent of those eligible are enrolled.

Jamee Lynch, Principal at Millbrook Environmental Connections Elementary, said pre-K offers countless benefits.

“It’s something that just gives them a leg up, those gaps never happen for them,” Lynch said. “They’re ready to learn; and by third grade, middle school, high school, we really believe that the pathway to a successful life starts when you’re 4.”

The executives left the school and headed to the General Assembly to sit down with lawmakers and present their findings and recommendations, including developing county-specific supplements to increase per-child funding, offering financial incentives for four and five star centers that don’t currently offer a pre-K program, and grants for start-up costs of expansion.

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