Statement by the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation on the North Carolina Budget Proposal

The North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation has a bold vision that each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for lifelong health, education and well-being supported by a premiere birth-to-age-eight system. One way that we seek to achieve this vision is by providing policymakers and the public with research and analysis about the impact on young children of current and proposed federal and state birth-to-eight policy.

In this role, we have highlighted the benefits of the General Assembly’s actions to expand NC PreK, to increase investments in home visiting, invest in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, and to create a Birth-to-3rd Grade Interagency Council among other achievements.

We also have a responsibility to speak up when legislative action causes concern for young children and their families.

In February, Congress passed bipartisan legislation signed by President Donald Trump that provided states with the largest increase in history to help more working families afford high-quality child care. As a result, North Carolina is projected to receive $74 million in new funding from the federal government. It is estimated that these funds could serve an additional 7,000 to 9,000 children. There is currently a waiting list of 50,000 children.

The proposed budget uses the majority of these new federal dollars – $50 million – for state fiscal relief rather than relief for working families.

The process is complicated and involves shuffling federal funding sources. The end result is that the federal funding is being used as a substitute, allowing the state to remove $50 million of state funds from NC Pre-K. Those state funds, previously serving young children, will no longer do so.  The bottom line is that the funding will not be spent as Congress intended – to support low-income working families in accessing high-quality child care.

North Carolina Senator Richard Burr led the effort to reauthorize the program that provided this new funding. In doing so, he said, “One of the great privileges of serving North Carolinians in the United States Senate is helping to lead the bipartisan charge to build stronger families by strengthening early learning and child care.” We applaud his vision.

Ensuring that young children have access to high quality child care supports children’s healthy development, allows low-income families to work, and supports employers by reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity.

This is a lost opportunity for our state. We must all work together to restore these displaced funds as soon as possible because the need is so urgent and the outcomes so significant.  When we invest in young children, we create the best outcomes in education, health and economic well-being for everyone in North Carolina.