NC Budget Season Kicks Off with Release of Governor Cooper’s Priorities

The Legislature is in session, appropriations committees are meeting, and Governor Cooper has released his budget priorities for the 2019-2021 biennium, with a strong focus on early childhood.

Key birth-through-age-eight highlights in the Governor’s budget include:

  • Increase in the NC Pre-K reimbursement rate
  • An additional 2,300 child care subsidy slots
  • Increase to Smart Start funding, including for home visiting programs
  • Funding for child welfare training and for intensive family support services
  • Support for food banks and child nutrition in schools
  • Pay raises for teachers, principals, assistant principals and other school staff
  • Investments to recruit, retain and support quality teachers, including teachers of color
  • Funding to hire more school nurses, counselors, psychologists, social workers and school resource officers
  • Expanding Medicaid to cover an additional 500,000 low-income adults
  • Establishment of a new Office of Healthy Opportunities to focus on social determinants of health like housing instability, food insecurity and interpersonal violence
  • Investments in data analytics capacity to support data-informed decision-making

Download an overview of provisions related to young children birth-through-eight and their families. This document will be updated to include the House and Senate budget proposals as they are released this spring.

The Governor’s budget reflects actions proposed in the Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Action Framework, which was co-created by hundreds of early childhood stakeholders across North Carolina. The Action Framework proposes actions to improve children’s social-emotional health, educational environments and regular school attendance in order to increase third grade reading proficiency and overall child and family well-being. The Governor’s budget reflects Pathways Actions such as:

  • Investing in a pipeline of educators and school leaders of color 
  • Increasing access to high quality early education through NC Pre-K, child care subsidy and Smart Start
  • Hiring more student support staff like school nurses, counselors and psychologists
  • Providing research-informed professional development for educators and school leaders
  • Investing in two-generation interventions, like home visiting
  • Focusing on social determinants of health like housing and transportation
  • Making data-informed decisions

The Governor’s budget also reflects priorities of the Think Babies™ NC coalition — which aims to improve outcomes for North Carolina’s babies and toddlers — such as:

  • Making sure parents have access to health insurance by closing the coverage gap
  • Increasing opportunities for home visiting
  • Increasing child care subsidy funding

Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson also released his own NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) budget recommendations for the 2019-21 biennium. A sampling of the Superintendent’s priorities that are relevant for K-3rd grade include:

  • Five to seven percent salary increase for teachers, and a principal salary increase
  • Investment in school safety and mental health staff
  • Training program for new teachers at the beginning of the school year
  • Coaching, mentoring and technical assistance for reading teachers
  • Kindergarten readiness tool for parents to use at home and a kindergarten readiness camp pilot
  • Shifting NC Pre-K back under DPI. Some history: In 2011, NC Pre-K was moved from DPI to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), in order to better align the state’s preschool program with other early childhood education programs like child care subsidies, the state’s 5-star rating system, and Smart Start.
  • Data analytics to support data-informed decision making
  • An exemption on class size requirements for districts that demonstrate they are unable to find sufficient qualified teachers