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By EMERY P. DALESIO
Associated Press

RALEIGH, NC (AP) — A North Carolina judge says the General Assembly’s budget cuts and changes to a pre-kindergarten program cheat poor children out of educational opportunities and should be stopped.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. issued an order Monday that throws into question part of the nearly $20 billion state budget that took effect this month. The judge says lawmakers cannot limit the number of at-risk four-year-olds participating in the program that was known for years as More At Four.

The spending plan cuts the pre-kindergarten program’s funding by 20 percent.

It’s not clear whether the judge’s order will force the Legislature to rewrite the budget. Manning says only that he’s confident the state will live up to its constitutional duties to give every child the chance for a good, basic education.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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