Children’s guardian

Published 1:00 am Tuesday, July 26, 2011

If Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. is remembered for nothing more than his concern for quality education for all of North Carolina’s young children, that would be more-than-adequate recognition.

Manning recently issued a ruling that points out the important role that early education has in allowing at-risk children to take advantage of their right to a sound basic education.

For years, Manning has sought to protect, preserve and enforce that right. His name has become synonymous with the right of young children to that comprehensive basic education.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time that a court has recognized what decades of scientific research have shown – that the foundation for learning (whether strong or weak) is built long before a child starts kindergarten. Indeed, science tells us that early experiences literally shape the architecture of the developing brain. With this knowledge as a context, the Court’s decision is legally responsible, economically wise, and morally commendable,” said Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

Manning’s ruling is part of the historic Leandro case, which established the standard that all North Carolina children have a constitutional right to a sound basic education. Eleven years ago, Manning ruled that state is obligated to provide prekindergarten education to its at-risk children.

Manning’s ruling led to the creation of More at Four, a program that met that obligation.

Last week, Manning ruled the state cannot deny children access to the state’s prekindergarten program, removing apparent funding limits placed on that program by a budget enacted by a Republican-written state budget bill.

It’s a ruling in the best interest of our young children need, along with that sound basic education.

A tip of the gavel to Manning.