Today, Governor Roy Cooper toured Poplar Grove Early Learning Center in Greensboro to highlight $8 million in federal funding that he is directing to NC Pre-K classrooms across the state. He expressed deep concern that the state budget passed under Republican leadership does not provide any new funding for NC Pre-K and falls far short for child care and early learning needs across the state. The NC Pre-K Program operates in every county statewide to provide high-quality early childhood education for eligible children.
“We need to invest in high-quality early education for our young learners across the state,” said Governor Cooper. “NC Pre-K is a highly effective program and this one-time funding will help their classrooms right now.”
“Thank you, Governor Cooper, for investing in NC Pre-K across our state,” said Ariel S. Ford, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Director of the Division of Child Development and Early Education. “Next year, 30,000 five-year-old children will enter kindergarten ready to learn thanks to this funding.”
"We will always be advocates for early childhood education, but we cannot advocate alone,” said Maria Layne-Stevens, CEO of Children and Families First. “We need leaders who will come alongside us, who understand the value of early education programs like NC PreK, and who are willing to make the investment. Governor Cooper has made that investment, and because of his foresight, nearly 500 children in our NC Pre-K program will directly benefit as a result.”
Last week, the Governor announced that he is directing $8 million in federal funding to provide a one-time special allocation to all NC Pre-K classrooms to help address classroom needs for the new school year.
This one-time special allocation can be used for upgrading classroom materials, toys, supplies, playground equipment, supplemental curriculum materials, ongoing facility maintenance needs, mental health support for children and staff, professional development for staff, and other needs. The NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) will distribute the funding to provide approximately $3,860 per classroom for the 2,098 NC Pre-K funded classrooms statewide that are serving students this year.
Funding for this investment in NC Pre-K is from federal Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools (EANS) funds that have reverted to the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund.
The Governor’s budget proposal included an investment in NC Pre-K of $108.3 million for 2023-24 and $199.5 million for 2024-25 to increase the state reimbursement rates for operating NC Pre-K classrooms in child care centers and public schools, provide start-up grants, and serve more children. Insufficient state reimbursement rates, rising startup and operating costs, and recruitment and retention of qualified teachers are key obstacles to NC Pre-K expansion, which currently serves only 52 percent of eligible children. The budget passed by Republicans in the General Assembly does not provide a funding increase for the NC Pre-K program despite extensive evidence of the program’s effectiveness and a court mandate under the Leandro case to increase state funding and expand the program to serve at least 75 percent of eligible children in every county.
Poplar Grove Early Learning Center is a Head Start and NC Pre-K Center operated by Children and Families First, which provides programs for children and families in Guilford, Randolph and Rockingham counties. The center operates six NC Pre-K classrooms for eligible children.