- - Tuesday, January 17, 2012

REGION

Prekindergarten growth slowed by shrinking budgets

The expansion in public prekindergarten programs has slowed and even been reversed in some states as school districts cope with shrinking budgets. As a result, many 3- and 4-year-olds aren’t going to preschool.

Children from low-income families who start kindergarten without first attending a quality education program enter school an estimated 18 months behind their peers. Many never catch up, and research shows they are more likely to need special education services and to drop out.

Children in families with higher incomes also can benefit from early education, research shows. Yet roughly a quarter of the nation’s 4-year-olds and more than half of 3-year-olds attend no preschool, either public or private. Families that earn about $40,000 to $50,000 annually face the greatest difficulties because they make too much to quality for many publicly funded programs but can’t afford private ones, said W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

As more students qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch, often a qualifier to get into a state-funded prekindergarten program, many families are finding slots simply aren’t available, he said.

MASSACHUSETTS

Judge’s abortion order voided in mental illness case

BOSTON — A Massachusetts court on Tuesday overturned a ruling by a judge who ordered a mentally ill woman to undergo an abortion against her wishes and be sterilized.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court said the woman, who has schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, described herself as “very Catholic” and made it clear she did not want an abortion.

The ruling reverses a decision by Family and Probate Court Judge Christina Harms, who found that the 32-year-old woman was not competent to decide whether to get an abortion.

Judge Harms found the woman would choose to end her pregnancy if she were competent and agreed to appoint her parents as guardians “for the purpose of consenting to the extraordinary procedures of abortion and sterilization,” the appeals court said.

FLORIDA

U.S. bans snakes plaguing Everglades

MIAMI — Federal officials say it’s now illegal to import four types of snakes that have been plaguing the Everglades.

Story Continues →