On Wednesday, March 15, Governor Cooper issued his recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2023-2025, which is the first stage in this year’s budget process. First in Opportunity, the budget, contains a historic $1.5 billion investment in early education!
The budget allocates funds to assist the child care workforce, make child care more accessible and affordable, and expand early childhood services in all counties across the state. Governor Cooper’s recommended budget provides $500 million over the biennium for critical child care stabilization grants to help children grow and parents work. Additionally, it invests $200 million over the biennium as part of sound basic education in child care subsidy programs for child care centers and family child care homes in lower-wealth counties.
“We are at a historic moment with unprecedented opportunity to make ‘once-in-a-generation’ investments in our future,” said Governor Cooper. “North Carolina has built on our success to strengthen our place as first in opportunity, and we will continue that growth only by making sound investments in our families, workforce, schools and communities. Let’s take advantage of our unlimited potential to make sure every North Carolinian can thrive.”
Through the Direct Care Workforce Wage Increases, Child Care WAGE$ Program expansion would be statewide; investing $80.4 million recurring to increase direct care workforce wages above pre-COVID levels. This investment makes permanent 50% of the COVID-19 rate increases for Personal Care Services (PCS) and Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF). In addition, this investment provides $27.5 million in FY 2023-24 and $29 million in FY 2024-25 and thereafter for the NC Child Care WAGE$ program to expand the program statewide to attract early childhood educators, minimize turnover, and increase continuity of care and learning in the classroom by increasing pay.
“ The early care and education (ECE) workforce is essential to our communities, and we need them now more than ever. We must continue to support and empower ECE teachers in their careers, especially through higher wages and benefits. We need highly educated professionals to engage children in learning during the most formative years. I thank Governor Cooper for continuing to make strategic investments to help attract and retain these vital professionals.” said Child Care Services Association President Dr.Kristi Snuggs.
As the workforce behind the workforce, early educators deserve better pay and more recognition for their role in supporting economic recovery. WAGE$ enhances their compensation and recognizes their achievements.