Earlier this year, the Budget & Tax Center released a report analyzing the role that public investments in North Carolina’s early childhood workforce could play in supporting our state’s goals of delivering high quality learning experiences to our youngest children. As the 2019-20 legislative session presses on, the early childhood education workforce and its advocates are hopeful that they may see historic legislation passed this session.
Last Friday, the North Carolina House passed House Bill 882, a landmark bill that would strengthen the quality of early childhood education in North Carolina and help ensure early childhood educators can meet their needs and provide quality care. The bill would make progress toward these goals by focusing on:
- High Quality Learning – The bill establishes increased educational and professional standards that support high quality learning for students. More specifically, the bill requires lead teachers who are hired as of Jan. 1, 2020, to have the infant Toddler or Preschool Certificate or equivalent by July 1, 2021. Additionally, the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) is required to develop expected professional standards and core competencies for lead teachers and create a process for teachers to demonstrate they have achieved these standards.
- Compensation for Early Childhood Educators – In recognition that infant and toddler educators in North Carolina experience the lowest wages and minimal education requirements, the bill requires DCDEE within the Department of Human Health Services (DHHS) to develop a program that will create incentives for higher teacher education and compensation by providing subsidy incentives for child care programs to employ and pay teachers who have an associate degree or higher by July 1, 2020.
- Targeted Program for NC’s Youngest Children —DHHS/DCDEE is also required to conduct a Feasibility and Cost Study to create a special Infant and Toddler child care program. The implementation of these programs creates incentives for careers and early education and may help lay the ground work for compensation to be placed within Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) standards.
- Data and Accountability— State level assessment and monitoring of the early childhood workforce is established through the bill’s requirement for a report on the status of the early childhood workforce every three years.
The Senate now has the to make certain that every infant is safe and developing, every toddler is thriving, and every preschooler is prepared for kindergarten.