Sneak peak at the child care funding cliff – EdNC

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Clues for NC from a new national survey

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A preschool class at Kate’s Korner Learning Center in Durham listens as U.S. Small Business Administration leader Isabel Casillas Guzman reads. Liz Bell/EducationNC

If it feels as if Liz and I have been talking about the child care funding cliff for years, it’s because we have. 

The “funding cliff” refers to the point in time when pandemic-era federal funding for child care is set to run out. Here’s a quick overview.

Funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) started going to licensed child care in October 2021. North Carolina distributed those funds as stabilization grants, which were primarily used to support compensation for early childhood educators. ARPA funding was set to expire at the end of September 2023 — the funding cliff.

But that date has been a moving target in North Carolina. 

We were initially set to exhaust our funds in April 2023, months before they would actually expire. But the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) announced it would extend compensation grants until December 2023 by reallocating some of its discretionary ARPA funds. Then the General Assembly directed DCDEE to use any remaining ARPA funds to continue compensation grants through June 2024.

Now there are three categories of states when it comes to the funding cliff: 1) states that went over the cliff at the end of September 2023 when ARPA funds expired, 2) states that found ways to extend funding and are still facing the funding cliff, and 3) states that made significant investment in early childhood care and education in preparation for the loss of ARPA funds and have no cliff in their future. 

That’s what makes the timing of a new survey from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) so interesting for states that find themselves in that second category —  like North Carolina, with our June 2024 funding cliff. 

NAEYC surveyed more than 10,000 early childhood educators in January 2024 in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. Here are some highlights: 

  • 56% of center directors and family child care owner/operators said they were under-enrolled relative to their current capacity, with the reasons including staff shortages (89%), low pay (77%), and lack of affordability for families (66%).
  • 55% of all respondents were aware of at least one child care program closing in their community in the past six months, while only 30% were aware of a new program opening. 
  • 36% of center directors and family child care owner/operators reported increased rent costs and half reported increased insurance costs over the past six months, causing 48% to increase tuition rates for families.
  • 46% of all respondents reported increased burnout since January 2023. 

That’s pretty discouraging. But! There’s also reason for hope.

States in that third category, the ones that stepped up their own investment in early childhood care and education, fared better than those going over or approaching the cliff. Respondents in those states less often reported raising tuition or that their program waitlist had grown in the last six months. 

Read more about the survey results — including specifics from North Carolina — and what they might mean for our state here. Plus, Liz has legislative updates ahead of the short session below, so be sure to check that out too. Whatever happens (or doesn’t) in the short session, Liz and I will be here to listen to your stories, and share them across the state.

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The big picture for little kids

Legislative Updates

The short legislative session, when legislators make adjustments to last year’s budget, starts in April.

We’re seeing the first of policy and funding recommendations on issues impacting young children. The Child Fatality Task Force, which studies the causes of child deaths and then recommends what the state should do to prevent and reduce death, passed its recommendations last Thursday. Liz wrote about those here

Some highlights:

  • The group is supporting increased child care investments, like increased subsidies that help parents afford child care.
  • The group wants funding for doula services to be covered through Medicaid, as well as funding for training and supports for doulas themselves.
  • The task force is supporting legislation that enables Fetal and Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) teams to access medical records. These teams research child deaths more holistically than the standard review process, focusing on trauma-informed family interviews and systemic prevention strategies. There is only one FIMR program in the state, in Guilford County. This would provide a tool for other counties to implement the program.
  • The group wants recurring funding for the NC S.A.F.E. Campaign, which educates the public about firearm safe storage — an important strategy to decrease child and adolescent deaths from firearms.

You’ll start seeing more regular updates here as the session approaches and begins.

Taking flight! Opportunities to spread your wings

  • Scholarships available for Child Nutrition Conference – From National CACFP Association

    From the organization: We are thrilled to offer 7 scholarships for the 2024 National Child Nutrition Conference in-person in Orlando, Florida. Through the scholarship program, the National CACFP Sponsors Association (NCA) is honored to recognize the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) professionals who have dedicated their career to ensuring that our nation’s most vulnerable populations have access to nutritious food.

    A scholarship includes conference registration fees, four (4) nights lodging, and up to $450.00 towards transportation costs at a value of over $1,600 per scholarship.

    We’ll also be awarding 8 additional scholarships to attend the conference virtually.

    Eligibility includes: family home providers, child care centers, Head Starts, and school districts. 

  • Pre-Apprenticeship Webinar Series for High Schoolers – From Building Bright Futures

    Know a high schooler who might be interested in becoming an early childhood educator? Share these webinars!

    This series of evening webinars is designed for high schoolers interested in or already registered as a pre-apprentice. Representatives from the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE), the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), ApprenticeshipNC, Child Care Services Association (CCSA), and others will talk about a variety of subjects. If you are interested in registering for this webinar series, please contact Megan Johnson, Program Manager, at [email protected].

    How to Get an Early Childhood Education Degree Without Debt: Wednesday, March 6, 2024 (6-6:45 pm)

    Being an Early Childhood Advocate: Tuesday, April 9, 2024 (6-6:45 pm)

  • Endorsement 101 – From NC Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Association

    Interested in an Infant or Early Childhood Mental Health Endorsement? Participants in this virtual session will learn more about the categories of Endorsement, requirements for each category, and the process for applying for Endorsement in North Carolina. Additional time for questions and discussion will follow. March 8, 2024, 12:30-1:30pm.

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