Financing Early Learning in NC

On Tuesday, the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation provided an overview of early learning funding in NC to the Institute for Emerging Issues’ Blue Ribbon Commission on Local Financing for Early Childhood Development. The Commission is part of IEI’s kidoNomiCs initiative. Over the next few months the Commission will explore how the state could further enable local financing options for early learning investments.

In North Carolina, as in most states, the federal government is a significant source of early learning funding. A list of federal funding streams is available in our Local Funding for Early Learning Toolkit. These funds flow either to a state agency that then disperses them or directly to a local provider as in the case of Head Start.

State funding for early childhood initiatives is provided largely through three programs—NC Pre-K Smart Start, and child care subsidy. North Carolina has made smaller state appropriations for programs such as Maternal and Infant Health, Nurse Family Partnership, and Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

State funding for early learning programs comes from either the State General Fund or Lottery funds. A list of state funding programs is available here.

The legislature can adjust how lottery dollars are allocated in each budget. Changes for the fiscal year 2018 budget went into effect on July 1, 2017. The distributions is as follows:

  • 57 percent for non-instructional support staff
  • 19 percent for school construction
  • 12 percent for NC Pre-K
  • 6 percent for Local Education Agencies to use for transportation
  • 4 percent for need-based college scholarships
  • 2 percent for UNC need-based financial aid.

A breakdown of lottery distributions by county is available online.

State funding for Smart Start, NC Pre-K and child care subsidies has not returned to pre-recession levels. The graphs below show trends over the past decade.



Download the presentation.