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Spotlight on early childhood: Several early childhood programs with one goal – A better North Carolina

This post is part of a blog series on the crucial role of quality early childhood education and child care in caring for our youngest residents, creating thriving communities, and promoting a healthy economy. Read the introduction to this blog series and learn more about the programs we’ll be discussing here.)
 
North Carolina is the home to several great early education programs. Unfortunately, some get confused as it is easy to conflate the programs, however; it is important to recognize that, while different, each program compliments the others and all are vital to the success of our youngest residents.

The most well-known early childhood program is Head Start. The Head Start program is one of the most successful initiatives of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. While it began as a summer program in 1965 to prepare low-income children for Kindergarten, it became a full-time and year-round program in 1998.

Head Start provides several services for children as well as their families. In addition to the literacy and education programs, Head Start also provides nutrition and health services for families. A key part of Head Start since its early days was the intentional support for cultural sensitivity and competence. Thus, providers keep the families’ linguistic and cultural needs as part of their program.

While Head Start is a federal program, there are offices in every state. The North Carolina Head Start Association is the umbrella organization for almost 60 Head Start programs in the state. Many local Head Start programs work with the another early childhood program, Smart Start.

Smart Start began in 1993 as an initiative by former Gov. Jim Hunt. It is a public/private partnership that serves low-income at-risk children as well as other children as there is no income eligibility requirement to participate in Smart Start. Some of the work done by Smart Start can be read in a blog post published earlier this week by Stephanie Fanjul, President of the North Carolina Partnership for Children which runs Smart Start.

Another North Carolina early childhood program is Bright Beginnings which is located in Charlotte and is run by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. It is a Title I program, referring to the section of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that provides federal funding to high-poverty school districts. Bright Beginnings serves as Charlotte’s North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten (NCPK) program. It also receives assistance from the Partnership for Children.

North Carolina’s Pre-K program is a national model. Some of the benefits of the program can be seen in an earlier blog post. It is important to note that some funding for NCPK is provided by the Partnership for Children.

While there are several programs none are duplicative because they provide different services, serve different purposes and work with a variety of children and families. These programs work together to ensure that North Carolina’s children and families are healthy physically and academically.

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