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N.C. Gov. Cooper tours Charlotte daycare center following $805 million investment into childcare programs

Cooper discussed childcare stabilization grants
Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 6:09 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 21, 2021 at 2:15 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper visited a Charlotte daycare center Thursday with a focus on keeping childcare facilities open and keeping care affordable for families.

The governor, who returned to the Queen City for the first time since July, toured at LeafSpring School, an area daycare, with NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.

They met educators and students following the recent announcement of a historic $805 million investment in North Carolina’s early care and learning care programs.

“High-quality child care and pre-kindergarten are critical building blocks for children’s success in school and for parents who work,” Governor Cooper said. “When we invest in early childhood education, we are investing in the workforce of today and tomorrow.”

Cooper spoke about grant money available to keep early childhood care stable and take some pressure off of childcare centers and parents.

Parents know quality affordable childcare isn’t easy to find, especially now with staffing shortages exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Childcare providers like LeafSpring Schools of Charlotte are working hard to help parents work and raise strong, capable children—and that helps raise North Carolina,” said Secretary Cohen. “These grants will help early care and learning programs recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, stay in business, and continue to serve our families, children, and lift up our state’s economy.”

For parents, the struggle to find childcare is real.

“My husband and I spent the entire next day calling every single daycare in the surrounding area and nobody has availability,” parent Julia White said.

N.C. Gov. Cooper tours Charlotte daycare center following $805 million investment in childcare...
N.C. Gov. Cooper tours Charlotte daycare center following $805 million investment in childcare programs(WBTV)

And for childcare centers impacted by the pandemic, it’s filling open spots.

“It was just very overwhelming, so I think people walked away from the field,” said Sharon Pitts, Center Director at Little Hedgepeth Academy.

The LeafSpring School offers nursery school, preschool, transitional kindergarten and summer camp for children in the Charlotte community. The school focuses on providing quality early education and school-age recreation programs focused on children’s growth and development.

“LeafSpring School is a five-star and nationally accredited program. Our teaching and nursing staff serve over 400 families in Mecklenburg County and surrounding areas,” said Rhonda Rivers, Regional Director of Curriculum and Training at LeafSpring School. “The funds from the stabilization grants will allow us to provide ongoing bonuses for our staff in the effort to recruit and retain high-quality teachers to continue our efforts to provide a safe, nurturing community for kids and families.”

Earlier this month, Cooper announced a one-time $805 million investment in the state’s early care and learned childcare programs. The money comes from a portion of the American Rescue Plan Act.

The goal is to help families afford care and recruit and retain caregivers and teachers with better wages and benefits. Those in the industry say it’s needed.

“There’s no question in my mind that NC is going to come out of this pandemic stronger than ever and investment in education is going to be one of the most important things that we do to secure our future,” Cooper said.

The grants can be used for anything from teacher bonuses and mental health support to increasing the quality of services provided to kids and parents.

An example is Little Hedgepath Academy in Newell, which managed to stay open during the pandemic but for the first time had long waiting lists as they tried to hire more lead teachers.

“It was just very overwhelming, so I think people walked away from the field,” said Pitts. “We have to make sure we’re meeting the guidelines of the state of North Carolina and that means education and experience, so you can’t just bring people into the field. So, you’re trying to recruit people who left the field to come back. It’s challenging.”

Calvary Church in Charlotte had to close a couple of early childcare classes recently because they didn’t have enough teachers.

The Child Care Stabilization Grants application opened on October 11, 2021 and closes on October 31, 2021. To access the application and learn more about the program, visit https://ncchildcare.ncdhhs.gov/Home/Stabilization-Grants.

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