Mecklenburg County chairman calls for universal pre-k

- If reading and writing are the "bread and butter" of education, most of our kids are going hungry and that’s a scary reality.

"Right now, only 40 percent of children who are in 3rd grade in Mecklenburg County read at grade level. That means 60 percent are not reading at grade level by 3rd grade. That's just unacceptable," said County Chairman Trevor Fuller.

To fix that, Fuller used his "state of the county" address to demand universal pre-k for all children.

"We've got to serve our children particularly where economic opportunity has been a challenge for us. We know that quality childhood education is key in creating economic opportunity for people," said Fuller.

It's not clear where the money would come from. Earlier in his speech, the democrat said there would be no tax increase in this year's budget.

Another big initiative: Putting 8,000 people back to work.

"These are jobs that are actually available. Employers have listed as available. There are 8,000 of them in the community. If we have 8,000 jobs available, we at least have 8,000 people in Meckleburg County who need a job. We can make that link between the people who need it and the actual job," said Fuller.

The program would create a pipeline of applicants to employers with job training and retention services.

The goal is to fill those positions within 18 months.

For the first year ever, the republicans on the commission did their own "state of the county" response.

"Our philosophy regarding county budget and government operations is not always aligned with the majority of the board. We feel it's an opportunity right now to really present unique ideas and present them to the public and let the public see what those ideas are," said Matthew Ridenhour, Republican County Commissioner. He and his fellow republicans called for a one penny tax cut.

They added, those down on their luck should get help from the faith community and not create another government program.

Here are a few other points from the address.

-Unemployment has dropped to 4-point-8 percent.

-The county is spending 130 million dollars on park and rec projects.

-The initiative "bringing Mecklenburg County to you" has finished up with its first phase by moving its land use and environmental services to the old charlotte school of law building.

-And the economic opportunity task-force will be taking a "listening tour" across the county through a series of community meetings.

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