Child care and early childhood education
One of the most controversial issues in the past few
years has been the growing role of the state in providing
childcare and preschool opportunities to North Carolina
children. All too often, proponents of highly centralized
early childhood programs and services spend more time
tugging heartstrings than recommending sound public
- The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction,
Office of School Readiness, oversees five state
and federal pre-kindergarten programs — More at Four,
Preschool for Exceptional Children, Title I Preschool,
Even Start and Head Start. Budgets for these programs
totaled $413.3 million in FY 2009-2010.
- More at Four locations typically combine funds and
classroom resources with Preschool Exceptional
Children, Title I Preschool, Even Start and Head Start
- More at Four is a state pre-kindergarten program for
at-risk four-year-old children. In 2009-10, it served
31,197 children and had a budget of over $165.5
million. Over half of the More at Four budget comes
from the NC Education Lottery. State appropriations
make up the remainder.
- Private childcare providers and public schools are both
eligible for More at Four dollars. Facilities are reimbursed
at a rate of $5,081 per slot for 2009-10.
- Preschool Exception Children is a state and federal
program that serves three-, four-, and five-year-old
students with disabilities. It had a budget of approximately
$61.5 million for the 2009-10 school year.
- Title I Preschool is a federal program for low-income
four-year-old students. In 2009-2010, North Carolina
received $61.4 million for Title I programs.
- The $1.5 million federal Even Start program serves
low-income families in four areas: early childhood
education, adult literacy, parenting education, and
- The federal Head Start program is the largest federal
pre-kindergarten initiative in North Carolina. In
2009-10, the state received $123.2 million for Head
Start. The program included education, nutrition,
counseling, and health services.
- The Department of Health and Human Services
administers three early childhood and childcare programs.
The total budget for the programs was $682
million in 2009-2010.
- The DHHS Division of Child Development oversees
the federal Child Care Subsidy and the state Smart
- In 2009-10, the Child Care Subsidy had a budget of
$404 million, not including $61 million from parent
fees and $51 million from Smart Start. The Smart
Start initiative had a budget of $180 million, which
includes $20.6 million for administration and oversight,
but not $32 million from private sources.
- The Smart Start initiative is a public/private program
that provides childcare subsidies, teacher training,
health screenings, and support for families with children
from birth to six years old.
- The DHHS Division of Public Health operates the
state and federal Early Intervention program. The state
spent $77.4 million on these efforts in 2009-10.
- For the 2009-10 school year, North Carolina spent
$1.09 billion on early childhood and childcare programs.
Analyst: Terry Stoops
- Eliminate Smart Start and other subsidy programs
for childcare and preschool expenses in favor of
a refundable Smart Start tax credit for preschool
children. For a smaller subset of desperately poor
preschoolers who lack functioning parents, a carefully
designed state intervention may be justified.
- Limit regulation of daycare operations to health
and safety requirements only. Parents should make
their own decisions about the trade-off between price
and child/staff ratios or qualifications.
- Have a qualified, independent research firm redesign
and conduct yearly evaluations of Smart Start
and More At Four. Longitudinal studies should be
conducted to determine if state pre-kindergarten programs
produce lasting social and educational benefits
as children progress through school.
Director of Education Studies
919-828-3876 • firstname.lastname@example.org