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Child care grants rolling out in November

'Child care providers have been a critical link for parents and for employers.'

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Anna Mercer-McLean checks Gov. Roy Cooper’s temperature before a tour of Community School for People Under Six in Carrboro. Liz Bell/EducationNC

As child care providers struggle to balance checkbooks and parents struggle to find affordable, quality care, the state will roll out grants with an aim to stabilize North Carolina’s early care and education infrastructure.

The application for the grants for child care providers opens tomorrow at 9 a.m. on the Division of Child Development and Early Education’s website. The state will start awarding the funds in mid-November through an 18-month period.

The federal government sent the $805 million in grant funding to North Carolina as part of the American Rescue Plan Congress passed in March. The law allocated the state another $503 million in child care funds. The state budget, under negotiations between legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper, will determine how those funds are spent.

Cooper announced the start of the grant rollout last week, holding a press conference and touring the Community School for People Under Six in Carrboro. He also said the budget negotiations include more early childhood investments.

“One thing I know is that child care providers have been a critical link for parents and for employers, making sure that our workforce is able to function,” Cooper said.

Anna Mercer-McLean, director of the Carrboro center, lauded the grants, saying she planned to use the funds to increase wages for her staff and provide mental health supports for teachers and children. “We’ve been in survival mode,” Mercer-McLean said.

And like many providers, she is finding it especially difficult to find teachers in recent months. I wrote about research from Louisiana and Virginia on turnover among early childhood teachers. A Virginia study found teachers in child care settings were twice as likely to stay at their centers when receiving $1,500 financial incentives spread over eight months.

There’s a lot going on in early childhood policy at the state and federal level. Stay tuned as I cover what it means for North Carolina’s young children and families. And below, don’t miss Ferrel Guillory’s column on the current early childhood moment in which “both uncertainty and opportunity abound,” a piece on the pandemic experiences of Black families with babies, and information on an early childhood teacher pay scale.

Early Bird reads: What we’re writing

How can we reduce turnover among early childhood educators? Pay them more, a study finds

“Even fast food (restaurants) are doing sign-on bonuses,” said Cindy Owens, director of New Testament Child Development Center in Monroe. “It’s really affected our field. One reason: We’re in the same pay scale as McDonald’s.”

Research on turnover among early childhood teachers from Louisiana and Virginia provides some context on the magnitude of the problem, but also a potential solution: Put more money in teachers’ pockets.

Child care grant applications will open Monday; Governor celebrates at Carrboro center

“These gaps aren’t going to be totally dealt with by this funding, and I want to use this occasion to point out the longer-term character of these needs,” said Congressman David Price, who also spoke at the Carrboro press conference. “These gaps in America’s caregiving infrastructure are related to the pandemic, but they’re not just pandemic problems.”


Reading proficiency has tumbled in the early grades. Here’s the DPI report, with steps to reform instruction

“It goes without saying, our earliest learners took a hard hit during the pandemic,” Office of Early Learning Director Amy Rhyne told the State Board of Education this week referring to troubling recent reading proficiency scores. “Now more than ever, we have to make sure there’s a solid plan in place to support the gaps that have been created during this time.”

Your take, for goodness sake: EdNC perspectives

Perspective | How high a priority on lifting the lives of children?

“… In both Washington and Raleigh, crucial legislative-executive negotiations hold out opportunities to propel the youngest children to better health, education, and upward mobility in life,” writes Ferrel Guillory, a member of EdNC’s board.

Perspective | Building back better: Ensuring Black babies thrive in their first 1,000 days

The FPG Institute’s Iheoma Iruka unpacks findings from a recent report on the experiences of Black families with babies navigating the pandemic, from disruptions in early care and education to financial and health challenges.

“Black babies deserve to live in a world that is prosperous, equitable, and safe. Sustaining our country’s infrastructure is a key solution to improving their lives and health outcomes. In an age of racial reckoning, an economic downturn, and a global health crisis, investing in Black children and families will improve lives and guarantee our nation’s future and security.”

In other early learning news: What I’m reading

Our collective amnesia about childcare - From The Los Angeles Times

Research & Resources: Let's talk salary scales

Child care providers will be able to opt-in to a compensation component of the stabilization grants — meaning the state will send additional funds if providers commit to using them to pay their staff members.

This can look like providing bonuses or increasing the base pay and benefits for staff. DCDEE is encouraging the latter option.

Meanwhile, a tool released last week provides a model for how to pay teachers based on levels of education. The North Carolina Early Childhood Compensation Collaborative Model Salary Scale for Early Education Teachers was developed to ensure teachers with the same credentials are paid on par with educators in the public K-12 schools — and that all teachers make at least $15 per hour.

Developed by organizations and agencies across the state, early childhood leaders are hoping it can serve as a guide for providers asking how to raise compensation in a fair way that helps recruit and retain high-quality professionals. Read more here on why the tool matters.

“It can provide a transparent compensation and career pathway, serve as a planning tool for employees in the workforce — something to work towards,” said Allison Miller, who works on compensation initiatives at Child Care Services Association, on a recent webinar outlining the tool. More technical assistance is planned to help providers implement the scale.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.