NC House and Senate Differ on Early Learning

The NC Senate budget proposal released this week takes a different approach to early learning from the budget passed last month by the NC House of Representatives. Some of the provisions that will need to be hammered out in Conference Committee are highlighted below. Download a chart comparing House and Senate provisions related to children birth to eight.

Early Childhood System
While the House proposes studying North Carolina’s early childhood programs and developing a statewide plan, the Senate directs the Program Evaluation Division to contract with a third party to develop a plan to merge Smart Start, NC PreK and Child Care Subsidies.

Child Care Subsidy
While the House proposal expands eligibility for children in kindergarten through third grade from the current 133% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 200% of FPL, the Senate keeps the current criteria of 133% of FPL.

Unlike the House, the Senate does not allow co-payments to be pro-rated for partial day care, like after-school programs.

Both the House and the Senate restore an earlier definition of ‘family income unit,’ so children living with grandparents and other relative caregivers can continue receiving child care subsidies.

Smart Start
The Senate reduces the amount that Smart Start local partnerships can spend on administrative costs and increases the amount of cash and in-kind funds that the local partnerships must raise. It also caps funding for central administration at 3.25%. These provisions are not included in the House proposal.

Unlike the House, the Senate does not fully fund the $5 million expansion for NC PreK authorized by Governor McCrory for FY 2014-15. It provides $2.3 million.

Kindergarten through Third Grade
The Senate includes funding to reduce class size in the early grades. In FY 2015-16, the Senate reduces class size in kindergarten through third grade by one student per teacher. In FY 2016-17, it reduces class size in first through third grades by two students per teacher and by one student per teacher in kindergarten. The House proposal does not include these provisions.

One area of agreement was Home Visiting. Both the House and Senate proposals expand funding for the Nurse Family Partnership, a maternal and early childhood health program.

Download a chart comparing House and Senate provisions related to children birth to eight.