RALEIGH – How can North Carolina ensure every child has access to early childhood education vital to the state’s economic growth and success? The answer: It will take a village.  That was the message at Kidonomics presented at the Emerging Issues Forum 2018.

Elected officials, business leaders, philanthropists, nonprofit directors, academic researchers and child care providers gathered in Raleigh to underscore the importance of pre-kindergarten education.

[More coverage: Governor Cooper weighs in on importance of early education]

“This conversation is about how the local community dramatically comes together to fill the voids to fund and grow early childhood education,” said Jim Hansen, PNC Bank’s regional president and a member of the Institute for Emerging Issues’ Blue Ribbon Commission.

This is not the first time the Institute for Emerging issues has shined the spotlight on early childhood development. In 2017 it held a special “Focus Forum” to explore the importance of early childhood development to the state’s economy and its future workforce.

Since that time, the Institute has launched a fact-finding mission that took it across the state to learn more about counties’ early childhood development programs. As part of its efforts, it formed the Blue Ribbon Commission to explore financing of early childhood programs.

For Commission member Brenda Howerton, president of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, the mission is clear.

“Education is important,” she said. “What are we going to do to make sure our children have what they need to be successful?”

The Emerging Issues forum opened three days after RTI International in RTP issued a new study pointing out that students who lack education will suffer economically.

Key Findings

Based on its findings, the Commission released its report, “Blue Ribbon Commission on Local Financing Options for Early Childhood Development.”

Key data points include:

  • 50% of first graders are reading proficiently.
  • 38% of fourth graders are reading proficiently
  • 18% of NC 11th graders passed all four ACT college and career readiness benchmarks.
  • 41% of NC students scored below 17 on ACT, minimum for entry into UNC System.
  • 67% of jobs in 2020 will require postsecondary education.
  • 59% of North Carolinians have postsecondary education.

Read the full report.

While the Commission found that communities are identifying unique ways to fund pre-k programs, it realized early on that communities need more money and more resources. It also found that private philanthropy is a partner that is already invested in the pre-k movement.

“The business community is engaged because this is our future workforce,” said Hansen. “It is a bipartisan issue.”

According to the Commission’s findings, philanthropic organizations and corporations are very interested in funding new programs. The goal is for the government to adopt and fund programs proven to be successful.

Other key findings included:

  • Public and private capital play different roles in funding early childhood development programs.
  • Local communities’ capacity to invest varies greatly. However, all need assistance from public and private funding sources.
  • Even the wealthiest communities are only able to self-fund a fraction of their needs.
  • For all investments in early childhood development, should be backed up by the rigorous use of data and evaluation

On day two of the forum, attendees will attend workshops to learn how to form partnerships with government, business and philanthropies to strengthen early education programs.