BOCC Affirms Commitment to Universal Pre-K with Additional $2.16M Investment
County Enters Two-Year Contract with Child Care Services Association to Manage Expansion Efforts
Durham, N.C. – Durham County leaders are committed to addressing the substantial achievement gaps among the county’s young children. Identified gaps exist from an early age and have lifelong consequences. In June 2018, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) took another step toward its goal of high-quality universal Pre-K for all of Durham’s children with the approval of an additional $2.16 million of funding for Pre-K in the 2018-2019 Fiscal Year budget.
“The Durham County Board of Commissioners is committed to doing all that we can to break the cycle of poverty in Durham and ensure that all of our children thrive,” BOCC Chair Wendy Jacobs said. “Currently about one quarter of children in Durham are living in poverty and only 38% begin kindergarten reading on grade level. Research has shown every dollar spent on early childhood education has a $7 rate of return on investment and critical brain development takes place from birth through the early years of childhood. Our board is excited to begin the process of creating a successful and innovative Durham Pre- K Program to ensure all of our children have equitable access to high quality early childhood education to lay the foundation for successful life outcomes.”
Each year, Durham County has nearly 4,000 4-year-olds, about half of whom live in households making less than $50,000 a year. This is an income level which makes affording high-quality Pre-K education – which can easily exceed $1,000 a month – extremely difficult. According to the 2017 State of Durham County’s Young Children Report and the 2018 Durham Preschool Supply and Demand Report, the average cost of high quality 5-star child care for a four-year-old in Durham is $940 per month. This amount significantly exceeds the federal benchmark of 7 percent of a family’s income. Traditionally, child care facilities that pay their workers an appropriate, living wage offer more expensive care to Durham families. Publicly financed high-quality Pre-K has historically served less than half of Durham’s four-year-olds living in or near the poverty level, with approximately 985 children served in 2017. While there are families that pay for high-quality Pre-K, whether it is affordable to their household or not, the County has set the goal to create a system where every child has that possibility to access excellent childcare either at no cost or at levels families can afford.
A high-quality early childhood program for 4-year-olds is defined by the Durham’s Community Early Education/Preschool Task Force’s report as one that provides a safe and nurturing learning environment that meets the needs and promotes the physical, emotional, and cognitive development of young children.
“As Universal Pre-K has been a positive uplift for other states and cities, I believe this concept has the potential to greatly reduce the achievement gap in Durham, and to improve educational, workforce, and other outcomes in the long run,” Durham County Manager Wendell M. Davis said. “This is not just a County responsibility; this is not just schools’ responsibility; this is a community responsibility, and Universal Pre-K represents a community investment in our future which will benefit every individual, institution, and corporation in Durham.”
The new investment brings the total amount allotted by Durham County for Pre-K funding to $3.66 million, or equivalent to 1 cent of property tax. The County currently funds eight classrooms at the renovated Whitted School located in the Southside neighborhood that serves many low-income families and Title 1 elementary schools in the surrounding neighborhoods. Pairing new investments with federal, state and other local funds, Durham County will support 13 new classrooms as well as the conversion of 25 existing classrooms over the next two years. These collaborative efforts will be housed within a mix of Durham Public Schools and community sites.
The County has entered into a two-year contract with Child Care Services Association (CCSA) to manage the expansion of Durham Pre-K, which has the goal of serving all four-year-olds in Durham by 2023.
“Durham is making a bold investment in the future by supporting early education for our young children,” said Linda Chappel, Senior Vice President of Triangle Area Child Care Resources and Referral Services at Child Care Services Association. “We will not rest while some of our children are left behind, furthering inequality and setting the stage for the achievement gap that persists through high school and beyond. Our overall goal in Durham is to improve quality and access for children. We are beginning this with an ambitious two-year plan [August 2018 – July 2020] but we know that this will be a journey that builds each year until we are able to serve all of the children to assure lifelong success.”
As part of the new investments, the contract with CCSA to oversee many strategic investments will:
- improve quality in preschool programs by funding a variety of quality improvement activities, including paying for coaching and professional development for teachers;
- support higher wages and compensation for those teachers;
- expand access for four-year-old children by paying for new spaces and by increasing eligibility guidelines to include most families; and
- offer a mixed-delivery system of Pre-K for four-year-olds by partnering with high-quality child care programs in the community, Durham Public Schools and Head Start.
About Child Care Services Association
Founded in 1974, Triangle-based Child Care Services Association (CCSA) is a nationally recognized nonprofit working to ensure affordable, accessible, high-quality child care for all children and families through direct services, research and advocacy. CCSA provides a nutrition program for children in child care settings, financial assistance for low-income families that cannot afford quality child care, free referral services to families seeking child care, and quality improvement assistance to child care businesses. Statewide, educational scholarships provided by the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Program give child care professionals the means to obtain an education, and the Child Care WAGE$® Program supplements their salary based this education. CCSA also licenses T.E.A.C.H. and WAGE$ across the U.S. and consults with others addressing child care concerns and engages in early childhood systems research and policy development statewide and nationally to advance our mission. For more information please visit www.childcareservices.org.