In North Carolina, 5,678 children under the age of three are enrolled in Early Head Start programs, and 23 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in the state-funded NC Pre-K program. Funding for the pre-K program increased in 2012-2013, after a 20 percent cut in the 2011-12 school year, with the state beginning to again enroll more at-risk children (it reached a peak of 25 percent in 2009 and 2010). In addition, North Carolina remains one of only four states that meet the 10 quality benchmarks in early childhood education established by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). The average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $8,868.
- What the governor is saying: In advance of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory sharing his fiscal year 2014-15 budget proposal in May 2014, the governor declared his intentions to increase funding to the state’s early childhood education program, noting, “If a student starts behind in school, they usually end up being behind throughout their career and throughout their life, and therefore in my budget we will provide an additional $3.6 million to expand early childhood education in North Carolina.” The North Carolina General Assembly is considering the budget proposal as of May 2014.
- Funding increases and additional support: Recently, Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed a 2014-2015 fiscal year budget that provides an additional $5 million for the state’s public pre-kindergarten program. In September, a new bipartisan North Carolina poll found that North Carolina voters view early childhood education as a critical issue in the state and across the nation. More than four in five (83 percent) of North Carolina voters believe that investments in early childhood programs will benefit North Carolina’s economy in the short and long term, and 71 percent support greater federal investment in early childhood education.
- New research demonstrating the success of NC Pre-K: Researchers from the University of North Carolina’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute found in February 2014 that the state’s pre-K program for 4-year-olds “has produced better-than-expected outcomes for participants.” The research found significant gains for participants in language and literacy skills, math skills, general knowledge and social skills, and greater gains for preschoolers with low levels of English proficiency.