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Early Bird

A young mother’s advocacy journey to Washington, D.C.

Strolling Thunder on Capitol Hill

Early Bird readers, hello again. Newcomers, welcome! If you were forwarded this email, you can sign up here to receive it every two weeks, and join our conversation on issues facing North Carolina’s young children and those who support them. If you’re already a subscriber, please help us reach more people by sharing this with your friends and co-workers interested in early childhood education. 

Hayleigh Marshall entertains her 9-month-old son, Callum, in the office of Sen. Thom Tillis. Image via Angela Burch-Octetree

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this edition stated that Stephanie Marshall works for Early Head Start. Marshall worked for Early Head Start in the past, but currently works for Alexander County Head Start. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms and mother figures out there caring for and teaching North Carolina’s littlest learners!  I recently had the great pleasure of spending a beautiful Tuesday strolling the halls and lawns of Capitol Hill with three such women.

Hayleigh Marshall is a full time university student, and mom to 9-month-old Callum. She was selected to represent North Carolina by ZERO TO THREE for their annual Strolling Thunder advocacy event in Washington, D.C. 

Accompanying her on the journey was Hayleigh’s mom, Stephanie Marshall, who pulls double duty in the mother-figure department by also working for Alexander County Head Start. And helping us navigate the halls of Congress (literally and figuratively) was Angela Burch-Octetree, interim director of the North Carolina Early Education Coalition, who brought her own family to participate — including her 14-month-old son, who is also named Callum. 

Shout out to both Callums for representing all of North Carolina’s babies with professionalism and pride!

The babies may have been the center of attention, but it was the North Carolina moms speaking to staff members from the offices of Sen. Ted Budd, Sen. Thom Tillis, and Rep. Patrick McHenry for Strolling Thunder. 

Washington was the farthest that Hayleigh had ever traveled from her home in Alexander County, but she took to the city like a natural, pushing Callum’s stroller through busy intersections, into antiquated elevators, and through the maze of underground tunnels that connect congressional office buildings. 

“Seeing it in person is just drastically different than seeing it in photos, and that’s been huge for me,” Hayleigh said. “I want to give [Callum] all of the experiences that are possible for him.”

When Hayleigh met with congressional staffers, she advocated for expanding funding of Early Head Start, a federal program that provides a variety of support services to low-income families of infants and toddlers. When her son was born, Early Head Start’s in-home education program helped her and her partner, Devin Waldrop, learn how to support Callum’s mental health by prioritizing their own.

“Because if you’re not your best self, you can’t be the best parent you can be,” Hayleigh said.

Her family is one of just 6% of eligible families who have access to Early Head Start in North Carolina.

Watching Hayleigh advocate for her family — and the 94% of eligible families who don’t have access to Early Head Start in our state — was such an honor, and I’m so grateful to Angela and her colleague, Elaine Zuckerman, for connecting us.

Hayleigh Marshall, accompanied my her mother, Stephanie, and her son, Callum, speaks with an aide to Sen. Ted Budd in the hallway outside his office. Image via Angela Burch-Octetree

And while I’m expressing gratitude, special thanks to Pam Lowney and Deanna Bell for being moms to me and Liz!

While I was traipsing around our nation’s capital, Liz was here in North Carolina at the first State of the Child Summit, hosted by NC Child and the North Carolina Institute of Medicine. And this past week she attended the national Smart Start conference, where Gov. Roy Cooper called on the legislature to fund child care. 

Plus, I’ve been digging into the most recent data on the number of licensed child care programs statewide and found the state has experienced a net loss of almost 5% of its licensed child care programs since February 2020. Read more about how those losses break down across urban, suburban, and rural counties here

Also, EdNC wrote a book! I wrote a chapter on the role of public schools in early childhood education (and if you’re an NC Pre-K contractor who spoke with me last summer, you might be featured). It was just the No. 1 New Release in Early Childhood Education on Amazon, no big deal…

One final note: since the last time we spoke, I lost my best furry friend, Murphy Dukes. He died suddenly after a long, happy life of luxury as a goofy and joyful companion to me and my spouse. For those of you parenting pets, give them an extra squeeze from me — and I wouldn’t be upset to have my inbox flooded with adorable pet pics this week ;)  

Murphy Dukes, widely recognized as the best boy.

More from EdNC on early childhood

At Strolling Thunder event in Washington D.C., an Alexander County family promotes expansion of Early Head Start

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First 'State of the Child' summit calls for resources to systems supporting youth, from child care to mental health

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North Carolina has lost almost 5% of its licensed child care programs since the pandemic began

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Cooper calls on legislature to fund child care, public schools at Smart Start event

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Perspective | Children in the gap: The space between preschool expulsion and special education

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Perspective | A day without child care: A glimpse into North Carolina's future

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Chirp! Chirp! Opportunities to share your voice

Will you be attending child care Day of Action at the General Assembly on Thursday, May 16? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Reply to this email or flag us down at the event; we’ll be in the purple EdNC tees ;) 

The big picture for little kids

Legislative Updates

The Senate Health Care committee approved Senate Bill 876 Wednesday, a bill to continue the state’s work to change the Quality Rating and Improvement (QRIS) system that rates licensed child care on a scale of one to five stars. The bill heads to the appropriations committee next.

The bill also continues a pause on rating assessments until the new system is implemented, which won’t be until late 2025, at the earliest.

“This industry has been hurting,” said Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth. “… So it’s crucial that we make changes to try to help them maintain their star ratings and to maintain their workforce.” 

The details of the new QRIS are still to be determined, but it will provide three options for quality rating rather than one, and focus less on formal education requirements than the current system.

Go here to learn more about the Child Care Commission’s framework for a new QRIS, and here for an overview of what early childhood advocates are asking for this session.

Advocates will host a Day of Action rally on May 16 to call for funding to avoid the financial cliff this June.

Taking flight! Opportunities to spread your wings

  • 50-State Child Care Cost Model webinar - From Prenatal to Five Fiscal Strategies

    From PCI’s PN-3 Resource Newsletter: Join Prenatal to Five Fiscal Strategies on Wednesday, May 15th at 2:00 p.m. ET for a webinar to learn more about P-5’s 50-state Child Care Cost Model. This tool, released in April of this year, provides estimates of the true cost of child care in center and family child care home settings in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In this one-hour webinar, you’ll hear:

    • How to navigate the cost model
    • About the methodology used and the data sources underpinning it
    • Discussion of how the results from the model can be used to support a better funded child care system

    There will be time allotted for a Q&A session, as well as sharing input on what you would like to see in future model updates. 

  • May 16 Day of Action - From National Domestic Workers Alliance

    From NDWA: The Child Care for NC coalition is bringing providers, parents, and supporters from across the state together to demand our leaders solve the child care crisis before a June funding cliff. We’re planning a Day of Action May 16 and we need YOU!

    As providers, we know it’s a big ask to close a center or a classroom for a day, but this is a big ask because we have a big problem ahead of us. We are closing for ONE DAY so we don’t have to close centers, family child care homes, and classrooms forever in the coming months.

  • CandL Stakeholder Briefing - From Care and Learning Coalition

    From CandL: Find out what we heard from parents and child care providers around the state. What’s most important? Get opportunities to connect with CandL and take action for child care in North Carolina. May 21, 2024  12:00-1:00 PM

Katie Dukes

Katie Dukes is a policy analyst at EdNC.