Wake County school officials say they hope to expand pre-kindergarten services by adding more than 200 slots for next school year.
Superintendent Jim Merrill is asking the Board of Commissioners for $39 million in local funding, with about $1.5 million directed toward hiring more teachers, assistant teachers and special education experts.
"We want kids to come into schools prepared and we find that children who experience disadvantaged homes or who have disabilities are less likely to have that preparation," says Karen Hamilton, Wake's assistant superintendent of special education services.
The Wake County school system serves 2,121 students in preschool programs, 1,446 of whom have been identified as being in need of special education services, according to Hamilton. The remaining 675 students are part of the district's Title I program, which targets low-income families. Hamilton says 822 students are currently on that waiting list.
Pam Dowdy, executive director of Wake County SmartStart, applaud's the county's efforts to provide more preschool services.
"Whether it's how to get along in a group, interpersonal communication, managing their own behavior - those are the kinds of things children learn in preschool and those are life skills that are absolutely essential," she says.
Studies also show that children who attend preschool are less likely to be retained, less likely to need special education throughout their entire school career and more likely to graduate.
The school board will consider the superintendent's proposed budget at a public hearing held today.