Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Governor Cooper Tours Wilmington Preschool, Highlights Urgent Funding Need for Early Childhood Education and Child Care

Jun 5, 2024

Today, Governor Roy Cooper toured Creative Minds Preschool in Wilmington and visited several classrooms to see strong child care in action as well as learning and growing through engaging activities. The Governor was joined by local officials and Smart Start leadership from New Hanover and Pender Counties as he highlighted the urgent funding need for early childhood education and child care. Creative Minds Preschool is a 5-star licensed child care center and NC Pre-K program provider.

“Creative Minds Preschool and high-quality programs like this across our state are providing safe places where young children can learn from teachers who care about them while allowing parents to work,” said Governor Cooper. “Investing in quality child care helps children, their families, and the economy. It’s critical Republican legislators address the upcoming funding cliff and invest now in early childhood education and child care, not more taxpayer-funded private school vouchers.”

“We are grateful to Governor Cooper for taking the time to visit Creative Minds Preschool and for calling for more state funding for child care in the state budget,” said Creative Minds Preschool CEO Liz Peloquin. “Quality child care is one of the most important things we should invest in since these are the most important years in a child's development and are so important for a child’s future health and success in school and life. We cannot have quality child care without quality staff and without additional funding from the state, we will have to increase tuition to a rate that many families cannot afford, which means parents will have to leave the workforce.”

“Children are our greatest resource; therefore, investing in early care and education is an investment in the growth and development of our youngest citizens,” said Smart Start of Pender County Executive Director Connie Carr-Costin. “Increasing investments in early care and education demonstrates our state’s commitment to affirming that we care about the future of young children, and we are willing to provide opportunities for young children to thrive and learn.”

“The rapid brain development that happens for every child in their first few years of life sets the trajectory for their future – their education, careers, civic engagement, and health,” said Smart Start of New Hanover County Executive Director Jane Morrow. “Children flourish in environments that support child-directed play and with nurturing and responsive adults. When we invest in our children and their caregivers we see remarkable returns.  Building advanced cognitive, behavioral, or social skills on a weak foundation is difficult and expensive. Children can’t wait, we need to invest in them now.”

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.  

North Carolina’s nationally-recognized NC Pre-K program is also at risk this year. Instead of providing the investment needed to sustain and grow this celebrated and high-quality program, the legislature has chosen to funnel $625 million in taxpayer-funded private school vouchers to the wealthy.

In April, Governor Cooper released his recommended budget for FY 2024-2025, Securing North Carolina’s Futurethat 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 working families 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.

Governor Cooper declared 2024 as the Year of Public Schools and has been touring public schools and early childhood education programs across the state calling for investments in K-12 education, early childhood education and teacher pay. The Governor has also called for a stop to state spending on vouchers for unaccountable and unregulated private schools until North Carolina’s public schools are fully funded.

Governor Cooper is committed to prioritizing public schools and to hearing from the many communities across the state who know that strong public schools ensure we have strong communities.

Read "The Year of Public Schools" proclamation here.

Read more about the truth of North Carolina's voucher program here.


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