NC’s licensed child care providers (including centers, family child care homes and religious-affiliated providers) are on the front lines educating and caring for our state’s most precious asset - its youngest children. Yet they face a workforce crisis (since long before the pandemic), a complex regulatory system, and a difficult financial climate - exacerbated by the Pandemic and rising inflation.
NCLCCA Policy Goals:
Preserve child care access for families by allowing more time for workforce development and system reforms
1) Extend time-limited regulatory flexibilities from the 2021 state budget to preserve providers’ Star Ratings during the ongoing workforce crisis:
a) Extend Section 1 until June 30 2024, to allow licensed child care programs to forgo ERS assessments if they would receive a lower Star Rating because they have lost teachers/staff with college coursework or degrees and have been unable to replace them with teachers/staff having similar levels of education. (In short, continue to hold Star Ratings harmless for another year.)
b) Extend Section 2 until June 30, 2026, which lowered the percentage of “Lead Teachers” in a program who must have certain college course credits or degrees to earn corresponding “education points” toward their Star Rating from 75% to 50%.
Implement reforms to expand the talent pool, improve the operating climate and increase access for families
2) Direct the NC Child Care Commission to develop QRIS reform recommendations and submit to the NC General Assembly to enact in 2024:
a) NC Child Care Commission shall complete recommendations for QRIS (Star-Rating System) reform by March 31, 2024, and submit the NC Child Care Commission’s QRIS reform recommendations to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services before the start of the NC General Assembly’s 2024 Session.
b) The NC Child Care Commission’s QRIS reform recommendations should include accreditations from national early childhood education (ECE) accreditation organizations as an alternative pathway for licensed child care programs to earn a star rating equivalent to each accreditation’s standards.
Funding to help address the child care workforce crisis and expand access to high-quality care for families
3) Reallocate unused federal pandemic-relief funding or other appropriate non-recurring funding to support the child care workforce by extending compensation grants (used for bonuses, pay raises and/or benefits) for 18 months through June 30, 2025. (Cost: $300 million, or $16.7 million per month to continue current uptake of more than 93% of programs.)
4) To improve quality and workforce retention, invest in “Technical Assistance” (TA) resources and behavioral health supports to expand availability for all licensed child care programs across the state, regardless of star rating. (Cost: $12 million recurring funding over two years to expand resources by 25%.)
5) Seek an increase in reimbursement rates for the Subsidized Child Care Assistance Program to meet the most current market rate (2021), and implement a new statewide rate floor to reduce rate disparities among counties. (Cost: $265 million recurring over current budget to sustain 2018 rates implemented with one-time funding and implement 2021 market rate + $103 million to implement new subsidy rate floor.)
6) Increase NC Pre-K reimbursement rates to fully cover the average cost of the program’s requirements, which were $908 per child per month in 2017. (Cost: Estimated at $60 million)