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Early Bird

Early Bird Learning Adventures: Optimism, excitement, and hope in Vermont

Another state's investment in early childhood education

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. 

The Homestead co-owner Leigh Lamphere greets a student after sharing his excitement about state investment in child care. Liz Bell/EducationNC.

It has been a busy season for the little birdies on’s early childhood team! Since we were last in your inbox, Liz and I traveled to Massachusetts and Vermont as part of our ongoing Learning Adventures to learn from states leading the way in early childhood policy and investment. And we’re already packing our bags for Oregon! 

The timing of our Learning Adventures has coincided with the expiration of the pandemic-era federal funding meant to stabilize child care. 

While North Carolina has taken steps to extend some of that funding through June 2024, the state legislature did not step in with a substantial stabilization investment despite calls to do so from advocates, providers, legislators, and the business community. 

As a result, a recent report from the Century Foundation estimated that 1,778 licensed child care programs will close in North Carolina. That would be more than one third of all licensed child care sites.

Other state’s governments have stepped in to prevent child care from going over this funding cliff. Vermont is one of them. 

This year, Vermont passed Act 76, which will provide an annual $125 million in child care funding across the state through a new payroll tax starting next year. Liz and I saw the impact of that investment close up, at a ribbon-cutting for a new center last month. 

“We found ourselves with a renewed confidence, not only to open this new school, but also to provide sweeping compensation increases to all of our teachers,” center co-owner Leigh Lamphere said. “I’ve worked in child care for 30 years, and I’ve never felt the optimism, excitement, and hope for the future that I feel right now.”

This is in stark contrast to the current vibe in North Carolina. With the June 2024 funding cliff looming, centers in our state have already started to close. On October 20, Southwestern Child Development Commission announced the October 31 closure of seven child care centers in the southwest corner of the state. 

Without significant investment from lawmakers, experts agree, these closures are only the beginning. 

You can read more about how lawmakers in Vermont are making those investments in our latest article. Also, check out our plan for tracking additional child care closures in the absence of that investment in North Carolina.

And as a special treat,’s leader, Mebane Rash, joined Liz and me for one of our site visits in Massachusetts, and she wrote all about her experience and our Learning Adventures project. 

Mebane convinced Liz and me to climb on a jungle gym during a visit to a pre-k site in Boston.

Join our Early Bird Facebook Group and/or follow me on Instagram to keep tabs on our visit to Oregon this week!

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Chirp! Chirp! Opportunities to share your voice

It’s been a big year for education, EdNC, and Early Bird, and it’s time to tell us what you think! Our annual survey is open and your responses will inform our work moving forward. This survey will take no more than five minutes. Results will only be used anonymously and in aggregate unless you grant EdNC permission to use your comments alongside your name, but if you leave your name and email in the final question, you could win one of five $100 Amazon gift cards!

The big picture for little kids

Taking flight! Opportunities to spread your wings

  • SRCD U.S. Policy Fellowship Program - From Society for Research and Child Development

    The SRCD Policy Fellowship immerses postdoctoral child development experts over one to two years in a U.S. federal agency, state agency, or congressional placement where they work full time on child and family policy. Applications for 2024-2025 close at 11:59 p.m. ET on January 7, 2024.

  • 2024 Grant Investments - From Dogwood Health Trust

    Dogwood announced its grant priorities for next year, which include making “exploratory/learning investments into family-centered early childhood education in homes and community spaces.”

    The majority of grant investments will be made through the Strategic Priority Grant Opportunity in the first half of the year. Applications will open on November 13, 2023.

  • Environment Webinar - From Child Care Resources, Inc.

    Register for this free, statewide webinar on creating supportive environments for young learners. Topics include: designing responsive environments that promote social-emotional competence, use of age-appropriate expectations to guide children’s behavior, benefits of child-directed activities, and how to teach volume control.

  • Employment opportunity: Program Officer, Early Childhood - From Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation

    The Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is looking for a new Program Officer for their early childhood efforts. Per the job description — Program Officers are integral to carrying out the Foundation’s approach to: Advance system changes to address barriers to good health at the root-cause level; Amplify community voice; in this case, elevating the experience and wisdom of, and accountability to, children, families, and providers to improve access to quality early care and education; Advance health equity, working to ensure everyone – regardless of race or ethnicity, geography, age, financial situation, or education level – has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible.

Katie Dukes

Katie Dukes is a policy analyst at EdNC.