‘Glimmer of hope:’ More money could be on the way to support NC Pre-K programs

This increased reimbursement rate can be used to increase salaries for Pre-K teachers.
State lawmakers are pushing for more funding this next fiscal year to support Pre-K programs with hiring and retaining teachers.
Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 5:49 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Getting a great education starts at an early age, but you must have even greater teachers to get the job done.

“Our industry is in a deficit we desperately need people,” Karen Jones, the Executive Director of Nana’s Place Learning Center, said.

Jones needs three more co-teachers and says last year was a challenge. She’s met with other learning centers across Mecklenburg County, which she says is also in need of more educators.

North Carolina state lawmakers are pushing for more funding this next fiscal year to support Pre-K programs with hiring and keeping quality teachers in the classroom.

Dr. Margaret Quinlan’s 4-year-old son goes to a private daycare center in Iredell County. She says the quality education he gets there is worth every penny.

“I’ve seen socialization, excitement for learning, reading terms, and sharing,” Quinlan said.

The 2022-23 fiscal year budget was presented to Governor Cooper on July 1. He has 10 days to sign it or veto it before it automatically becomes a law.

House Bill 103 is proposing an increase in the reimbursement rate for participating NC Pre-K programs.

Jones says this will help them with the costs of classroom items, resources, and increasing salaries for their teachers.

“In order to maintain that high quality program you’ve got to spend money in order to be the type of program that the state is expecting you to be,” Jones said.

Lawmakers want to increase this reimbursement rate to address the disparities in salaries of teachers working in childcare centers in contrast to teachers in public schools or Headstart programs.

“The NC Pre-K has been below the median for quite some time. It’s a high cost for high-quality childcare,” Jones said.

Jones said providers are often footing the bill for resources while also trying to compete with pay rates that public schools are offering.

Quinlan says she’s fortunate her son’s program has been able to maintain having enough staff but realizes other programs throughout the state may be facing more challenges.

“They’ve done a really great job and have been really fortunate to be able to keep so many high-quality teachers in the classroom but I know that hasn’t been the experience everywhere,” Quinlan said.

This funding would increase the reimbursement rates by 7 percent for the 2022-23 year. Jones plans to use the funding to increase salaries and recruit more co-teachers.

“It will hopefully help us be able to get a marketing game together and be able to continue high-quality care that will not be a strain on us at the expense of our teachers,” Jones said.

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