Access to high-quality early childhood programs for young children from under-resourced and overburdened families because of systemic racist policies, can provide an equal footing to achieve school readiness and lifelong employment, improve their social and cognitive development, and improve academic achievement. A new issue brief released by The Hunt Institute highlights the importance of public investment through diverse funding mechanisms (federal, state and local) to ensure educational equity for young children. Because 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs before kindergarten, the early years (birth-to-age-five) are the most critical period of life for rapid brain development and foundational growth.

As states continue to recognize the return on investment in funding early childhood programs – $8.60 for every $1 spent – seven states voted on ballot measures to fund early childhood initiatives during the November 3, 2020 election:

  • Colorado’s tax on nicotine products
  • San Antonio, Texas – renewal measure
  • St. Louis, Missouri – six-cent property tax for early childhood services for infants to 5-year-olds
  • San Joaquin County, California’s Measure X
  • Cincinnati, Ohio – renewal on a 73-cent property tax, originally passed in 2016
  • Escambia and Leon counties, Florida – property tax revenue to fund cradle-to-career services

Read more about each of the victories and types of funding mechanisms here.

On the local level, dedicated fees and taxes through property, sales, school and income taxes are some of the ways early childhood education is financed. Through NC Early Childhood Foundation’s Local Funding for Early Learning: A Community Toolkit, there are in-depth case studies that detail local, public funding (municipal or county level) for children – from early learning to literacy programs. In North Carolina:

  • Expanding the County’s Budget: In Wake County, the 2015 budget for Wake County included $325,728 to expand NC Pre-K classrooms to serve more children. By 2017, the budget was increased to $488,600 with another $100,000 dollar-for-dollar match to encourage community investment. The additional investments since 2015 now provide access to NC Pre-K to 359 children.
  • Property Tax and County Budget Allocation: With 19.8 percent of children under the age five in Mecklenburg county living in poverty, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved $6 million each for Fiscal Year 2018 and 2019 county budget to reduce the child care subsidy waiting list for children under age five. The BOCC approved an increase in the property tax rate of three-quarters of a penny to raise more than $9 million to open 33 new public pre-k classrooms, referred to as “MECK Pre-K”.

For North Carolina communities interested in learning more about local financing, please contact Lisa Finaldi at