Report | May 25, 2021

Investing in North Carolina’s Child Care Sector Can Improve National Security

High-quality child care can contribute to future military readiness

Our national security relies on qualified young adults who are ready, willing, and able to serve in the U.S. military. However, educational deficits, behavior problems, and health issues (particularly obesity) prevent 72 percent of youth in North Carolina from qualifying for service. Investing in high-quality child care and the infant-toddler workforce can help address these issues, ensuring that infants and toddlers learn healthy habits at a young age, and are prepared for any career they choose, including serving in the military.

Infants and toddlers need nurturing and stimulating environments for healthy brain development during their early years. However, in March 2021, there were over 18,000 children on North Carolina’s child subsidy waitlist, and only 17 percent of eligible infants and toddlers received child care subsidy assistance

Subsidies and costs covered by parents do not always represent the full cost of child care. Unfortunately, ECE programs may not generate enough revenue to adequately pay teachers and staff. On average, infant-toddler teachers in centers earn $11.00 per hour in North Carolina, despite the fact that nearly two-thirds have at least an associate degree. Nearly one-quarter do not have health insurance, and almost 40 percent receive some form of public assistance. Low wages and lack of benefits are a major reason why many employees leave the ECE field. In 2019, over 20 percent of infant-toddler teachers planned to leave their jobs within the next three years, worsening the child care crisis in our state.

North Carolina must do more to support child care employees and programs throughout our state by expanding the child care subsidy program, creating incentives to expand the supply of high-quality infant and toddler care programs, and improving the education and compensation of ECE teachers. These improvements will have lasting impacts for North Carolina’s children and families.

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