RALEIGH (February 12, 2019) – The ability to serve more children in quality early education learning environments is being constrained by a lack of public funding and the growth of low-wage jobs, according to a new report from the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.

The growth of low-wage work in North Carolina creates two major barriers to the ability to achieve higher quality early childhood education and serve more children: (1) Parents simply cannot afford to pay rising child care costs with stagnate and low wages, and (2) early childhood educators can’t make ends meet on their low wages and deliver a quality learning environment for each child.

The report provides an overview of early childhood educators’ wages, provides evidence for how higher wage rates could improve quality early childhood experiences for each child, outlines potential sources of funding to support the goal of taking a two-generation approach to our state’s early childhood system, and shares policies that have proven effective to support early childhood educators.

“North Carolina has a robust infrastructure in place to support the early childhood workforce and strengthen the quality of early childhood programs,” said Martine Aurelien, Budget & Tax Center Public Policy Fellow, and co-author of the report. “A focus on adequately and equitably funding that infrastructure will ensure that each child is able to thrive and that early childhood educators— often parents themselves — will also thrive as well.”

A few of the findings from the report:

  • North Carolina ranks 42nd for its high share of working people with children who earn poverty wages (12.1 percent). The rising cost of high-quality child care makes it difficult for many North Carolinians — from those earning poverty wages to those earning median wages in the state — to afford a quality early learning experience for their children, which is critical to those children’s lifetime earnings.
  • The emerging research is clear that the quality of pay and work environments has a significant relationship to the delivery of professional and quality services. For many early childhood educators, their pay is simply too low to make ends meet and provide quality child care for their own children, and this holds back the ability of the state to deliver a high-quality learning environment to every child.
  • North Carolina has set up model programs to help educators receive scholarships for higher education, providing a structure to recognize credentials and what early childhood educators need, but in order to reach scale, the programs need to be fully funded and aligned to the goals of a quality system. North Carolina’s investment in compensation programs like WAGE$ and TEACH, has declined since 2008 by more than half, while general professional development supports have increased by a mere 5 percent.

“The ongoing cuts to income tax rates for big companies and individual taxpayers has reduced the dollars available in the state and made it impossible for policymakers to meet the increased need for early childhood programs and improve the quality,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, Budget & Tax Center Director, and co-author of the report. “These dollars — $900 million alone from the tax cuts that were phased in on Jan. 1, 2019 — would go a long way toward expanding the support for professional compensation of the early childhood workforce and recognition of credential attainment.”

Read the report. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT Martine Aurelien, Budget & Tax Center Public Policy Fellow, at martine@ncjustice.org or 919-856-3192; Alexandra Forter Sirota, Budget & Tax Center Director, at Alexandra@ncjustice.org or 919-861-1468; or Mel Umbarger, BTC Senior Communications Specialist, at mel@ncjustice.org.