EdNC by Katie Dukes 

Spring officially has sprung here in the Piedmont, and Liz and I are busy little bees! We’ve been catching up on all the news we missed while we were on spring break at the end of March, including the addition of $1 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants at the federal level, and the release of the Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) Council’s newest provider survey results in North Carolina.

While we were on our break, we each spent quality time with important young learners in our own lives — Liz with her precious 3-year-old nephew and me with my lifelong friend’s charming 4-month-old daughter. I know I speak for both of us when I say what a good reminder that time was of how hard parenting can be without loads of support, and how necessary it is for families to have access to high-quality, affordable child care.

And just this week Liz was in Forsyth County visiting a family child care home and a new child care program at Forsyth Tech (stay tuned for more about both in the coming weeks). While she was on the road, I sat in on a legislative oversight committee meeting, and then she came back and attended a Wake County child care event coordinated by the office of U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross, a Democrat who represents North Carolina’s 2nd District and is running for re-election this fall. Like I said, busy little bees!

What’s become increasingly clear this week is that without intervention from our state’s legislature, the sunsetting of pandemic-era child care stabilization funds — also known as the funding cliff — is likely to have devastating effects on the availability, affordability, and quality of child care in North Carolina.  

At the meeting of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services, both Sandy Weathersbee, owner of Providence Preparatory School in Charlotte, and Ariel Ford, director of the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE), referenced the results of the CCR&R Council’s most recent survey of child care providers. Here are some key findings:

  • About 3 in 10 programs (29%) expect to close.
  • About 4 in 10 centers (41%) expect to close or combine classrooms, leading to decreased enrollment capacity.
  • More than half of programs (54%) plan to cut costs, which could reduce program quality, including child nutrition.
  • Almost all programs (88%) expect to increase parent fees in the second half of the year, raising the annual costs for families by more than $1,000 per year.
  • When asked to name one support that would help programs be sustainable, the most common response was increasing funds for staff salaries (38%).

And while a recent $1 billion federal investment in early childhood across the country is certainly welcome, participants at the Wake County event organized by Ross’s office reiterated the need for much more state-level investment.

“I’m not sure exactly what will happen if we do not get another influx of resources to our schools,” said Keisha Sanders, director of operations for Raleigh Nursery School. “We’re gonna do the best we can. We have seen hard times before. You’ll have to cut back on something.”

As we’ve reported, other states have not only found ways to avoid their own cliffs, but have developed innovative, systemic solutions to the child crisis. Check out a new version of our work that was published by Early Learning Nation this week to learn more. And if you want to see how those states’ solutions fit into North Carolina’s framework, take another look at our original research

Read more about both the legislative oversight meeting and the Ross event below, and don’t miss the exciting news about our pal Kate Goodwin, who was invited to attend a roundtable at the White House! (You can also read all about Kate’s empowerment model and a recent visit to Kate’s Korner Learning Center by a member of President Biden’s cabinet.) 

And one final note: I’m writing this on Friday, before the Final Four men’s and women’s match-ups between my beloved NC State Wolfpack and their respective opponents on their historic March Madness runs. You’re receiving this after their wins (presumably), but regardless of the outcome, I’d be remiss not to say: GO PACK!!