Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced that the next round of the state-level Race to the Top grant competition would target $500 million to states that create comprehensive plans to transform early learning systems with better coordination, clearer learning standards, and meaningful workforce development. Both the North Carolina Senate and House have targeted the state’s award-winning early childhood programs, More at Four and Smart Start, for devastating 20% cuts. The special provisions included in the budget also inexplicably move More at Four out of the Department of Public Instruction and into the Department of Health and Human Services.
It is highly unlikely the Department of Education will reward North Carolina with one of these lucrative grants if the General Assembly eviscerates the very programs the Department of Education is trying to promote. Aside from the fact that these programs provide essential services and are lauded by business leaders, military leaders, economists, and educators, given the level of proposed cuts to North Carolina’s already underfunded education system legislators simply cannot afford to turn away opportunities for additional education funding.