NC pre-K gets $8M funding boost for supplies, equipment and support

The one-time federal funds amount to nearly $4,000 per classroom.
Posted 2023-09-13T16:48:05+00:00 - Updated 2023-09-13T17:39:02+00:00

North Carolina's 2,098 publicly funded preschool classrooms will receive $8 million in federal funds to help shore up needs at the beginning of the school year, Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday.

The one-time money will fund upgraded materials, equipment and facility maintenance, staff training and mental health support for both students and staff, according to an announcement from Cooper's office.

The funds for North Carolina pre-K classrooms will amount to about $3,860 per classroom, if evenly distributed.

Cooper's announcement came with criticism for state lawmakers, who have yet to agree on a budget proposal between chambers and who are unlikely to fund pre-K at the levels Cooper has requested.

Spokespeople for Republican House Speaker Tim Moore and Republican Senate leader Phil Berger didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.  

Cooper has asked for $108.3 million more than current funding for the 2023-24 school year and $199.5 million more than current funding for the 2024-25 school year. That's largely to increase state reimbursement rates for operating NC Pre-K classrooms in child care centers and public schools, provide start-up grants for more classrooms and serve more children. Preschool advocates said the reimbursement rates for opening up new classrooms to more families are too low to incentivize doing it.

Cooper cited the long-running education lawsuit Hoke County Board of Education v. State of North Carolina, commonly known as Leandro, as the reason for his requested increases. Parties in the lawsuit, including the governor, have agreed to a plan to address findings in the lawsuit that include an investment in pre-kindergarten.

There's been disagreement over whether pre-kindergarten should be included in that plan, and state legislative leaders have argued the plan can't compel them to budget a certain way. The formerly Democratic-majority state Supreme Court ruled last year that it could compel them to budget a certain way. But the court, now with a new Republican majority, has decided to re-hear elements of the case at a later date.