State Leaders Speak to Importance of Focusing on Early Childhood

State leaders at the North Carolina Education Cabinet meeting this week spoke to the importance of focusing attention and action on the first eight years. 

Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen updated the Cabinet on the Early Childhood Action Plan, highlighting the cross-sector nature of early childhood work in the state and the importance of grounding early childhood work in brain science, child development and data. 

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson agreed, stating that “the research is no longer in question – the earlier you start, the better.” He praised NC’s dedicated kindergarten through third grade teachers who are growing students’ learning and literacy every year, and he stressed the importance of ensuring that all young children receive a strong foundation in the birth through five years to ensure success in school and life.

Governor Cooper highlighted the need to raise compensation and support for early educators, in order to ensure high quality teaching for every young child. He said, “In North Carolina, we have emphasized over the years not just the quantity but the quality of early childhood education. There are so many committed teachers in early childhood because that’s where they want to be. The money they’re making doesn’t approach what K-12 teachers make — they are there because they love this.” He went on to share statistics on how many early educators do not have health insurance because they fall in the coverage gap and discussed how low salaries and lack of benefits makes it hard for early educators to stay in the field.

Governor Cooper said he expects to share an update on the Leandro Commission for a Sound, Basic Education at the next Cabinet meeting. A report from WestEd, the consultants hired by the court to make recommendations for a remedy, should be released publicly soon, and the report is expected to include recommendations from the Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Action Framework.

The North Carolina Education Cabinet was created in 1992 by the NC General Assembly to ensure cooperation among all entities of the state’s education system. The current Cabinet includes:

  • Governor Roy Cooper, chair
  • Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services
  • Eric Davis, Chairman of the State Board of Education
  • Peter Hans, President of the NC Community College System 
  • Mark Johnson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • William Roper, Interim President of the University of North Carolina system
  • Hope Williams, President of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities