RALEIGH (March 21, 2012) – Recent considerations by the NC General Assembly’s House Select Committee on Early Childhood Education Improvement to explore privatizing North Carolina’s Pre-K program could severely limit access to the program in rural, high-poverty areas, a new report cautions.
Using county-level data on the location of Pre-K program slots, rural and urban designations of counties, and poverty and child poverty rates, a report by the NC Budget & Tax Center – a project of the NC Justice Center – finds that a majority (58) of North Carolina’s counties rely on public schools to host and manage more than half of their Pre-K slots. Data reveals that only 6 of these counties are not rural.
Moreover, 17 counties – Alleghany, Bertie, Bladen, Clay, Dare, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Hyde, Jones, Moore, Perquimans, Polk, Tyrrell, Warren, Washington, and Watauga – rely exclusively (or 100%) on public schools to house their Pre-K program slots. All 17 of these counties are rural and a majority of them of are also high-poverty.
“It is not a coincidence that public schools play such a key role in providing infrastructure for Pre-K classrooms in rural, impoverished counties,” notes Louisa Warren, Policy Advocate with the NC Budget & Tax Center and author of the report. “Unfortunately, these counties often don’t have an extensive network of high-quality private child care providers, and public schools are essential to making Pre-K an accessible opportunity in these communities.”
The report includes a county-by-county table that’s a quick reference for the number of Pre-K slots, the percentage of slots in public schools, and poverty and child poverty rates.
“What’s clear from this data is that prohibiting public schools from managing and hosting Pre‐K slots could have a disproportionate impact on rural, high‐poverty counties in the state,” Warren said. “Privatization could mean a majority of North Carolina’s counties would have limited access to Pre-K, negatively affecting children’s education in the short and long terms.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Louisa Warren, Policy Advocate, NC Budget & Tax Center, Louisa@ncjustice.org, 919.856.2183; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center, firstname.lastname@example.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).