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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — An appeals court has upheld a lower court decision that says North Carolina cannot deny at-risk children admission to the state’s pre-kindergarten program.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals ruled unanimously Tuesday against attorneys for the state who argued a Superior Court judge went too far in throwing out legislative changes last year to the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten program.

Those changes included limits on the number of children considered at-risk that could be served and required some co-payments for the free program.

Appeals Court Judge Rick Elmore wrote that state attorneys misinterpreted the order to mean legislators must provide pre-kindergarten to all at-risk 4-year-olds in North Carolina. Elmore said the order was about eliminating artificial barriers to enter the program.

The Legislature dropped those limitations this year.

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