While our state is being recognized for it's superior quality pre-school education by researchers, state lawmakers are faced with cutting early childhood education funding. Popular programs like Smart Start and More at Four may be in the cross fire. The Senate's proposed budget would cut 25 percent of funding heading into the hands of pre-school programs, which translates to $ 108 million. In order to spare early child care programs, the House proposed a bill that would merge two major pre-school programs into one single agency to cut costs. Smart Start and More at Four, both programs that offer child care services to prepare children with high quality, affordable education, could merge. Smart Start of Brunswick County has already started using the model. "From our perspective, we hope that More at Four and Smart Start are merged as opposed to following what's proposed in the Senate because we have seen it work so well here in Brunswick County,” said Director Linda Gironda. "More at four is really trying to capture those families who have not had the opportunity to have their children in programs that are going prepare them for kindergarten,” said More at Four Manager Helen Gabriel. But not all agree with a merger. In a recent press conference, Governor Bev Perdue addressed a crowd full of pre-school teachers about the issue. In a nutshell, she said implementing a merger may be easier said than done. If the Senate budget passes, programs like More at Four would get dismantled to save money. That's why supporters of the House bill say it's better to work together than have no program at all. An education committee is reviewing House Bill 539. It will then go onto the full House for approval, then to the Senate. Both chambers will have to pass the bill before it becomes law.
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