The lead editorial in this morning’s Winston-Salem Journal tells it like it is in an editorial blasting the state-sponsored child abuse that is North Carolina’s ridiculously underfunded and overwhelmed childcare system. As the editorial explains, two decades after the progress issued in by former Gov. Jim Hunt and his signature program, Smart Start, neglect and conservative, trickledown economics have left the state with some dreadful stats:

“We miss Jim Hunt’s days as governor.

Hunt, who’s still speaking out for education, did a lot to help underprivileged children by establishing Smart Start, a public-private program that incorporated socialization, health care and some preschool academic preparation. Gov. Mike Easley, for all his faults in other areas, followed up by establishing More at Four, saying the state’s at-risk children needed early academic work.

Today, fewer than half of North Carolina’s children age 4 and younger are enrolled in a regulated child-care facility — either at a formal child-care center or in a regulated family child-care home — the Journal’s Arika Herrron reported recently, citing records from the N.C. Division of Child Development and Early Education.”

After citing some even more dreadful numbers from Forsyth County, including massive and growing waiting lists, the Journal puts it this way:

“Here are children who want to learn, and parents who want their children to learn. Here’s a state that is traditionally dedicated to quality education for all.

And here’s a state legislature that’s more interested in giving raises to UNC chancellors than providing preschool for 4-year-olds in working families. These priorities are skewed.”

The editorial takes a stab at a positive closing note by pointing out a new and ongoing study of the issue and expressing hope that it will help state legislators finally see the light. The problem, however, is that the people running North Carolina these days don’t really believe in publicly supported childcare, which they regard as socialist indoctrination.

In other words, caring and thinking people are not going to win this critical battle merely by reciting statistics about unnecessary human suffering. It’s going to continue to take  a sustained effort to win the ideological battle as well; North Carolinians must come to see that public structures and systems like  public education and public childcare are the foundations of a middle class society, not just charitable services that get tossed to a handful of poor folks.

Click here to read the entire editorial.


The reviews are coming in as more and more people wade through the details of the House budget proposal. Here’s another sobering take from the executive director of NC Child:

Tiny plates and the House budget
By Michelle Hughes, Executive Director of NC Child

One of the most simplistic reheated bits of diet advice ever sold in the grocery checkout line is to eat your regular food, but to use a small plate and a small fork.

You’ll think your plate is full!! If you go back for seconds you won’t overeat so much!


The latest state budget for children’s services seems to have a few similar beliefs baked in–the key one being that before long you’ll believe that the plate in front of you is a regular-sized plate. Even though plates on your right and left are normal, you will not notice the one in front of you is small. Substitute ”appropriation” for “plate” and you get the point.

Set the budget table with tiny plates for many children’s programs and there you have the post-recession and post-2013 tax cut reality. The legislature fundamentally re-set the state’s budget priorities with tax cuts in 2013 and funding has not reached pre-recession levels since, although the state has grown in population and investment needs.

For instance, North Carolina’s premiere early childhood education programs, Smart Start and NC Pre-K, saw their funding reduced by 20% during the recession and have never seen that funding restored. Now, despite a growing population of children, we’re able to provide fewer of them with the strong start they need. Read More


If you get a chance, check out this Charlotte Observer editorial on the state Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the North Carolina’s still badly inadequate pre-Kindergarten effort. As the editorial notes:

Berger pre-K“We’re a little puzzled by the fist-pumping from Republicans in Raleigh last week after the N.C. Supreme Court tossed out a case involving the legislature and the state’s pre-K program.

The court, in a six-page decision, dismissed an appeal of a 2011 lower-court ruling that said the Republican-led legislature had violated a constitutional mandate by making it harder for at-risk children to participate in pre-K. The court also vacated that lower-court ruling because Republicans undid the two things that landed them in court in the first place – capping pre-K enrollment and initiating a co-pay for some eligible families. Read More


In case you missed them. here are two responses worth checking out this morning to last week’s state Supreme Court’s decision on pre-K and the General Assembly’s typically thickheaded response. First, there is this excellent editorial from this morning’s Fayetteville Observer:

“North Carolina’s legislative leaders, having stepped out of the path of an oncoming train, now wish to be hailed for their splendid judgment. Read More


(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.)

Helen LaddClara MuschkinBy Helen Ladd and Clara Muschkin

Education research clearly documents that investments in early childhood programs are among the smartest investments that states can make.  It is time now for policy makers from both parties in North Carolina to come together to reaffirm what previous policy makers in this state have well understood:  That we must invest in our young children today not only because it is the right thing to do for them but because it is the right thing to do for our state.  

North Carolina has long been a leader in early childhood programs. Starting in the early 1990s, then Governor Hunt led a crusade to address the many challenges facing young    children in this state, and for 15 years the state’s Smart Start Initiative and, later, its More at Four Program were recognized as models for other states. Over the years, various studies by the Frank Porter Graham Center at UNC-CH have documented how these initiatives have helped young children and their families address challenges such as poor health, low-quality child care options, family dysfunction, and lack of readiness for school.  

Along with our Duke colleague Kenneth Dodge, we have recently expanded that research by looking at the communitywide effects on third-grade outcomes of the Smart Start initiative aimed at children aged 0 to 5 and the More at Four program that funded slots in high-quality settings for at-risk four-year olds.  Read More