North Carolina's Supreme Court will decide whether the state is required to expand a pre-kindergarten academic program designed to boost the classroom achievement of poor children.
The state's high court hears from attorneys on Tuesday in the latest chapter in a 19-year-old dispute brought by five poor school districts.
North Carolina's constitution gives every child the right to a sound, basic education. The Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that includes helping children who are at risk of falling behind their peers with services getting them ready for kindergarten.
At issue is cutbacks by the Republican-led General Assembly that lower courts decided would deprive most disadvantaged 4-year-olds from benefiting. One estimate put the cost of expanding the program to enroll every needy 4-year-old to as much as $300 million a year.