North Carolina Pre-K: Study of Local Funding Sources and Administrative Costs

preschool girl stacking blocks

Established in 2001 as More at Four, the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten (NC Pre-K) program provides free Pre-Kindergarten education to four-year-old children from families with incomes up to 75% of the state median income. A key feature of the NC Pre-K program is the requirement to blend and braid additional funding sources at the county level. Each contracting agency’s NC Pre-K state allotment covers only a portion of each child’s slot, based on setting.

In the spring of 2023, AIR worked with the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education to help identify funding challenges and inequities in the NC Pre-K funding formula, uncover more detail about how counties blend and braid funds to support NC Pre-K, and make recommendations about what the state might do next to address challenges and inequities. 

AIR provided a final report to North Carolina that:

  • Includes the current county-level funding landscape for NC Pre-K;
  • Describes the most salient concerns about the current NC Pre-K funding formula among stakeholders; and
  • Estimates of the costs of administering the program, and details the characteristics of other states’ pre-k funding formulas (Alabama, Georgia, and West Virginia). 

The report also makes recommendations for next steps in North Carolina. These recommendations can help North Carolina work toward creating a more equitable, adequate, and transparent NC Pre-K program.