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Early Bird

Teacher shortages close early childhood classrooms

Federal dollars could 'fundamentally reshape' landscape, profession

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.

An empty infant/toddler classroom at A+ Childcare and Learning Center in Monroe. Liz Bell/EducationNC

Child care centers are struggling to find qualified teachers, and a third of those responding to a September survey said they’ve had to close classrooms with little notice to parents because of staffing shortages.

Providers were looking for an average of 4.5 teachers this fall, the survey from the North Carolina Child Care Resource & Referral Council found. Most respondents said they were finding it harder to recruit and retain teachers than before the pandemic, and had lost both teachers (2.5 on average) and students (7 on average) since March 2020.

In the short term, quarterly stabilization grants from the state could help early childhood programs with recruitment and retainment. More than 3,600 centers and home-based facilities have completed the state’s application to receive the first payment this month. But those grants are from a one-time federal supply of money, and will last for only 18 months.

A six-year federal package could be a more long-term solution. The Build Back Better Act, working its way through Congress, currently includes large investments — $400 billion nationwide — in child care and pre-K. That would mean lower costs for parents, high-quality care for children, and higher wages for teachers.

I spoke with Dan Wuori, senior director of early learning at The Hunt Institute, about what the proposal would mean for the early childhood landscape and the workforce if passed.

“On the presumption that North Carolina and other states are going to move forward and that this is passed, it’s going to fundamentally reshape what it means to be a part of this profession,” Wuori said.

Don’t miss a breakdown of the bill’s current early childhood components below. And follow me on Twitter for updates on the package and what it means for North Carolina in the coming days.

Early Bird reads: What we’re writing

As big federal dollars loom, N.C. child care centers search for teachers

Here’s what the September survey tells us about where we are now:

  • Centers have lost teachers and students during the pandemic.
  • Hiring and retaining teachers has gotten harder.
  • Most centers have raised wages.

As potential unprecedented federal funding becomes available, states will face a lot of decisions on how to increase the supply of child care.

“States are definitely going to need to give consideration to how to beef up their early childhood workforce, how to upskill existing teachers, how to bring new caregivers into the workforce,” Wuori said.


Groundbreaking NC early childhood study missed a lot by ignoring race, paper says

In case you missed it the last edition, an October research paper reflected on the seminal Carolina Abecedarian Project, which shaped early childhood research and practice in the decades since its findings revealed that interventions in early childhood could make a big difference for low-income children.

The paper explores the study, which started in the 1960s in Chapel Hill, through what it left out: race.

“You’re ignoring a huge factor that’s impacting the community, not just individual interactions, but the structural policies that are leading to inequities,” said Elizabeth Pungello Bruno, president of the Brady Educational Foundation and former investigator on the Abecedarian Project.

Your take, for goodness sake: EdNC perspectives

Perspective | Elementary students blossom at innovative UNC Charlotte summer reading camp

“At Niner University Elementary (NUE) in West Charlotte, 51 rising first, second, and third grade students blossomed through a research-based, multi-pronged approach to summer learning: foundational reading support, integrated science and literacy support, and a wide range of enrichment activities,” writes Jeanna White of the Mebane Foundation.

“Students made significant growth in reading skills throughout the summer. The models of both the school and the summer camp hold promise for building literacy across the state.”

In other early learning news: What I’m reading

How to Get a Covid Shot for Your Kid - From The New York Times

Research & Resources: Let's talk $400 billion in investments

This guide from The Hunt Institute distills about 100 pages of the Build Back Better Act into six. If passed by Congress, the bill would infuse the early childhood sector with unprecedented amounts of federal funding over the next six years for:

  • Expanded child care subsidies for families with incomes at or below 250% percent of their state’s median income, specifically:
    • 75% of state median income or below: parents would have no copayments starting in 2022.
    • 75-100%: parents would pay no more than 2% of their annual family income starting in 2022.
    • 100-125%: parents would pay 2-4% of their annual family income starting in 2023.
    • 125-150%: parents would pay 4-7% of their annual family income starting in 2024.
    • 150-250%: parents would pay 7% of their annual family income starting in 2025.
  • Ensuring those subsidies cover the full cost of full-day, full-year care, measured by cost estimation models that take into account geographic and quality differences and assume living wages for all staff.
  • Grants for child care providers to support startup and supply expansion, raising quality, and repairing facilities.
  • Universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.
    • This would build on, not replace, existing state pre-K programs like NC Pre-K.
    • Programs would be available in multiple settings, including public schools, licensed centers and homes, networks of community- and neighborhood-based child care providers & Head Start agencies.
    • This includes a three-year rollout, with Congress allocating whatever funds are necessary in 2025 to reach all 3- and 4-year-olds.
  • Supports, education, and increased wages for teachers.
    • Living wages for all teachers.
    • Pay parity with elementary teachers for those early childhood teachers with similar credentials.
Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.