Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Child Care Providers Call on Legislators to Make Governor Cooper’s Proposed Investments in Early Childhood Education Governor Cooper's budget invests $745 million in quality child care and early childhood education

May 28, 2024

Today, child care center owners and directors across the state are speaking out about their deep concerns for the children and families they serve, their teachers, and the future of child care programs if the North Carolina General Assembly fails to make the critical early childhood education investments called for in Governor Roy Cooper’s budget.

A recent statewide survey shows that nearly a third of North Carolina child care centers are at risk of closing their doors when the Child Care Stabilization Grants that were made possible by federal funding end in June. Without additional investment, survey results show that North Carolina’s child care centers will lose quality teachers, have difficulty hiring, and will have to raise fees on parents.

“Investing in our state’s early childhood education and child care programs has never been more urgent. Quality child care helps young children thrive, allows parents to work, and enables businesses to hire and retain the good employees they need,” said Governor Cooper. “The General Assembly must get serious about making the needed investments in quality child care to support North Carolina’s economy, families and children.”

In April, Governor Cooper released his recommended budget for FY 2024-2025, Securing North Carolina’s Future, that includes an urgently needed $745 million investment to strengthen access to child care and early education for working families. Governor Cooper’s budget provides child care stabilization grants to ensure child care centers stay open and can continue serving children, prioritizes funding to help parents afford childcare, helps qualified educators afford to keep teaching, and makes child care more available, especially in our rural areas.

The Governor’s budget proposal includes:

  • $200 million for Child Care Stabilization Grants to keep child care centers open when federal funding ends this summer. These grants support better compensation for the early educator workforce to keep good teachers in our early childhood classrooms. 
  • $128.5 million for the Child Care Subsidy Program to increase rates that will benefit child care providers and families in rural and lower-wealth communities and $10 million for Smart Start. Investments will help recruit and retain early childhood educators by providing competitive wages, plus help for early childhood teachers to afford child care for their own children.
  • $197 million for the NC Pre-K Program to increase rates to cover the full cost for NC Pre-K students, which is needed to shore up the program.
  • $24.4 million for summer care and learning programs for students after they complete NC Pre-K and before they enter kindergarten.
  • A refundable child and dependent care tax credit worth up to $600 for the average family of four that will further reduce the burden of child care costs for working families.

Below are statements from early childhood education and child care providers in the field calling on the North Carolina General Assembly to make Governor Cooper’s proposed early childhood education investments.

“Our child care center is struggling to stay afloat. Your investment in early care and education will determine whether we sink or swim. Please help us continue to provide quality care to our precious children and support our wonderful teachers.”

    - Sarah Robinson, Owner/Director, The Learning Express, Denver

“I will have to send out closing letters to all my wonderful hard working parents telling them due to lack of government funding I cannot stay open. The Child Care Stabilization Grant has not only helped my family child care home, but it has helped the parents who struggle to pay for daycare. I have been able to charge lower rates and hire extra teachers. I also can offer a wide range of hours with the extra help the compensation grant brings in. We need these funds desperately.”

    - Sandy Bay, Owner, Bay’s Child Development, Gastonia

"This should be viewed as an investment in NC's infrastructure. It is more than investing in child care. It is investing in all businesses and families that use child care on a daily basis!"

    - Jason Carrow, Executive Director, Care-O-World Early Learning Centers, Ayden, Chocowinity, Washington, Winterville

"Our families cannot afford to pay more and our educators cannot afford to receive less! In March 2020, state leaders publicly announced that child care was a ‘critical service.’ If we do not receive funding to sustain our programs after the funding cliff, our elected officials will realize exactly how ‘critical’ our services are because programs across our state will continue to close their doors.”

    - Emma Biggs, Director, Pathway Preschool Center, Charlotte

“Our child care center is facing a heartbreaking dilemma. The rising cost of everything, from supplies to staff compensation, threatens our ability to maintain quality. While families are also struggling, raising tuition to offset the loss of stabilization grants simply isn’t an option. This puts us at a terrible crossroads: reduce the quality of care, close classrooms, or become unaffordable for many families. None of these options are acceptable for the children we serve. We urgently need support to ensure our community has access to high-quality, affordable childcare.

High-quality child care shouldn’t be a luxury. Child Care Stabilization Grants are a lifeline, allowing us to invest in our staff and keep those nurturing classrooms open for all families. Without Child Care Stabilization Grants, the equation is simple: fewer qualified teachers equals a drop in quality. Let’s choose to nurture the next generation.”

    - Norma Honeycutt, Executive Director, Partners in Learning, Salisbury

"Investing in quality early childhood education and child care is not just a fiscal decision; it's an investment in our future. The challenges we face today in providing these crucial services will only grow if we fail to prioritize them. Every child deserves a strong start, and it's up to us to ensure they have the opportunities they need to thrive."

    - Kim Shaw, Owner/Founder, A Safe Place Child Enrichment Center Inc., Raleigh

"Early education lays the crucial groundwork for our children’s future. Without the support of funding, our children and the future of our children will suffer. Investing in early educators and children is vital! Ensuring they receive fair compensation is not only just but also essential for retaining skilled professionals in early education. By investing in our future, it allows us to increase our pay and earn a living wage. Families benefit significantly when they have access to quality early education programs. Parents can focus on work, knowing their children are in safe hands. This, in turn, contributes to economic stability. As a result of the compensation grants, many programs were able to pay their employees bonuses and increase their hourly pay. Now the time has come when the compensation grant will end in June. The absence of a compensation grant poses many challenges and dire situations for many early education programs across North Carolina. Without those compensation grants we can no longer provide bonuses and pay increases. Forcing Early Educators, already facing low wages, to be forced to make harsh decisions whether they can continue to serve families or close their programs.

In closing, I am requesting on behalf of all early educators and early education programs in North Carolina that allocating the $745.2 million from the Governor’s budget to strengthen North Carolina’s economy through early education is a commendable step. It not only benefits children and educators but also contributes to the state’s overall prosperity. Let’s continue advocating for robust investment in early education, ensuring a brighter future for our children and society."

    - Sundra Hanna, Owner, Sunny Kids Academy, Charlotte

"Don't just talk about it, be about it! We often talk about attracting more businesses to North Carolina and boosting our economy. The real key to making this happen is ensuring young children have access to quality childcare. This allows parents to work confidently, ensures children are school ready, and assures businesses that their employees can be reliable and present. So let’s stop talking and start investing! It’s time to take action and truly drive change for North Carolina's future!"

    - Cassandra Brooks, Executive Director, Little Believer’s Academy, Clayton and Garner

“It’s simple - we need these funds in order to sustain our businesses and continue to provide quality care and assistance to families. If you stop funding, providers will leave. And in this day and age, it’s hard to compete with work-from-home customer service jobs and salaries offered by retailers.

Our educators have a calling to serve the children of North Carolina. They have passion and are truly invested in ensuring each child has a healthy development. Please consider fully compensating them for their worth!

As a 5-star licensed home-based childcare provider, I have used stabilization funds to offer discounts to families in need, purchase outdoor play materials and curriculum, and increase my salary due to working from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on weekends. Without the funding, I will have to look for other resources and possibly close my doors eventually.”

    - Shay Jackson, Family Child Care Provider, Winston-Salem

Read Governor Cooper’s budget proposal here.


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