Access to strong early childhood programs is critical for child development, and for North Carolina’s working families.
Even before COVID-19 hit, many North Carolina communities faced a child care shortage. More than half of families in our state live in a child care “desert” – with three or more eligible children for every child care spot available.
For child care providers, the pandemic has added many operating costs, but revenues have tanked. Low teacher wages are contributing to a statewide shortage of early childhood teachers. Parents face even fewer child care choices, making it harder than ever to go back to work – unless we rebuild a stronger system now.
Young children & their families deserve reliable, quality child care that lets parents work and puts young children on track for success in school and in life. With relief funds long gone, our nation’s child care system is under massive strain. The good news: There is a strong movement in Congress to provide new investments to sustain the child care sector for the long haul.
Are you an early childhood educator? A parent of young children? Do you want to be more involved in efforts to rebuild child care and early education in our state for the long-term?
Contact our Early Education Campaign Manager, Shanda Sumpter, to find out how you can plug in and share your expertise. Email Shanda.
High-quality early childhood programs help move families out of poverty. Reliable child care allows parents to work and earn higher wages. Children who attend early childhood programs are more likely to graduate high school, attend college, and earn more as adults.
Parents earn more when their children are enrolled in quality care. Women in particular earn more throughout their careers when their children have had access to quality care.
Building Young Brains
Early childhood programs help build kids’ brain power. Children who attend high-quality early education programs are more successful in school. They are much more likely to read well, graduate high school, go to college, and earn more as adults. They are even healthier as adults.
Return on Investment
Investing in early childhood education has a very high return on investment for taxpayers. Children who attend high-quality early childhood programs are less likely to need special education programs in public school. They earn more as adults and pay more taxes later in life.
The average cost of full-time child care for one child in North Carolina is around $10,000 per year (as of 2019). That is more than in-state tuition at UNC, and more than most NC homeowners pay for their mortgages.
Child care subsidies are a cost-sharing program between parents and the state. Low-income parents pay a portion of their income towards child care center fees, and the state provides a voucher for the remainder.
The vouchers enable parents to earn a living while their children receive an early education or participate in after-school learning.
The average child care subsidy in North Carolina is $7,000 per year – but this amount varies widely by county. However, the actual cost of full-time child care for one child is around $10,000 per year (as of 2019). This huge gap is one reason why child care centers struggle to stay open, and pay such low wages.
As of November 2019, there were over 38,000 children on the waiting list for child care subsidies in NC. Find current numbers for each county here. More than 300,000 children in NC are eligible for child care subsidies, but are not on a wait list.
The cost of high-quality care are much too high for many families – around $10,000/year per child.
In many North Carolina communities, there is also a severe shortage of early childhood providers, with far fewer slots available than children who need care. Many licensed child care centers and in-home providers have wait lists of a year or more.
The current system we use to finance early childhood education in North Carolina does not come close to meeting the true need in our state.
In North Carolina most early childhood teachers are women. While these professionals perform one of the most important jobs in our state, they also receive very low pay on average. In 2017, the median salary for child care workers in North Carolina was less than $21,000/year. One in five early childhood teachers has no health coverage.
Creating an affordable, accessible, quality early education system in North Carolina will require many improvements across the system, including:
Together with partners, NC Child is part of several important initiatives promoting a strong early childhood system in North Carolina, including:
Join the Worthy Wages Campaign from the NC Early Education Coalition. Early educators deserve worthy wages for worthy work.
Looking for child care? Use the county search tool from the NC Division of Child Development