Something must be in the water. There are signs in North Carolina and nationally of a growing consensus around the need for additional funding for early childhood development programs.
An August 2014 poll of registered voters in North Carolina found that 71% support increased federal investment to help states provide more access to high-quality early childhood programs for low-and moderate-income families. 74% favored increasing funding for NC Pre-K and Smart Start programs so that more children can participate in them. Majorities in both parties and among independents favored these measures.
At the federal level, Congress is about to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act (CCDBG) for the first time in 18 years. North Carolina Senator Richard Burr was part of the bipartisan group responsible for the agreement, which will strengthen health and safety protections and improve the quality of care for children of low-income working families aged birth to 13.The House-passed version authorizes an increase in funding of over $400 million over the next six years.
And last January, in a rare display of bipartisanship, Congress approved a $1 billion increase for Head Start. The bill included $500 million for the expansion of Early Head Start (EHS), for which Family Services has applied. Awards are expected to be announced early next year.
Yes, I know the 2014-15 state budget adopts stricter eligibility guidelines that will reduce the number of working families eligible for child care subsidies and allows 2,500 of 5,000 temporary NC Pre-K slots to expire. But at some point a rising tide will lift all boats.