Where is innovation happening on early learning investments?
At the local level! Municipalities and counties across the United States are recognizing the importance of early learning for the well being of their children and the economy. They also recognize that local revenue streams offer a means to expand early learning opportunities, particularly as child populations are growing, brain science is showing the importance of the early years in establishing a foundation for learning, and demand is increasing from working parents.
In North Carolina, several counties are investing in early learning and others are considering how they can join this growing American localism. NCECF’s new fact sheet – “Investing in Early Learning: Bright Spots in NC,” highlights four counties that are investing in young children – Bertie, Dare, Mecklenburg and Wake – and at least another four are investigating their options – Buncombe, Durham, Forsyth and Transylvania. (If you know of others, please share with us.)
Awareness and interest is growing – on September 25, ncIMPACT at the UNC School of Government hosted a training about NC Pre-K to help community leaders understand the top ranked program in the country in quality, learn about the opportunities and challenges for expansion, and discuss local financing options. Eighty-five participants from 35 counties – urban and rural – including governments, service providers and school systems enthusiastically considered the local investment choices.
In addition, many NC communities have been inspired by NCECF’s Local Funding for Early Learning: A North Carolina Community Toolkit. The toolkit, first published in 2016, offers communities interested in local investments in early childhood the information and resources needed to determine their readiness. We partner with the NC Budget and Tax Center (BTC) to offer trainings for communities to learn:
- How local governments are organized, and how the local budget process works.
- What are the financial mechanisms to generate local revenue in NC.
- What are the existing federal and state funding streams for early learning in NC.
- How to assess community readiness for a local initiative.
Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, President/CEO at El Centro Hispano in Durham attended the first training of three communities in 2016. The City of Durham and the County established a Task Force to develop a plan to serve all 3 and 4 year olds in Durham County in high quality preschool, by 2023. The investment will first serve four -year-olds, prioritizing children in low income families, by August 2019.
“The training was valuable because it put together different stakeholders to develop a strategy based in real knowledge of different ways to reach it, from the funding standpoint and making the case.”
A lot! We will train three more communities in December of 2017. Then the 2018 Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) kidoNomiCs Forum will take place February 5 and 6, followed by IEI’s local capacity building around early learning in a few select NC communities.
Join with us in building vibrant, desirable places for people to live and businesses to grow – starting with ensuring each child in a community has the opportunity to fulfill his or her potential.