Blog | Event | November 16, 2021

North Carolina Leaders Call for Greater Child Care Support

ReadyNation members met with a North Carolina child care provider to discuss solutions to solve the child care crisis

For North Carolina businesses to be able to hire the employees they need for economic recovery, lawmakers must take steps to combat a devastating child care crisis. This crisis has made it difficult for child care providers to hire workers due to poor compensation. During an online panel discussion on November 16, 2021, North Carolina executives and a child care provider met to release a new research report and sound the alarm on the child care crisis.

ReadyNation’s new report notes that the drain on the economy caused by lack of quality child care, already sizable before the COVID pandemic, has grown even larger. The report, “Child Care Providers: The Workforce Behind the Workforce in North Carolina,” states that annualized statewide losses in earnings, productivity, and revenue caused by a lack of affordable quality child care have grown from $2.4 billion per year to $2.9 billion per year.

The North Carolina economic impact data is startling. A 2019 ReadyNation report estimated that a lack of affordable, quality child care for infants and toddlers alone costs the American economy $57 billion each year due to lost earnings, productivity, and revenue. With the state budget potentially being finalized this week, many are hopeful important additional investments will be made.

“Now that businesses are gearing back up—and I can speak firsthand about how badly we all need workers—some of those child care providers won’t reopen, and some child care providers won’t be able to survive financially if they can’t get the workers they need,” said Charles Bowman, President for North Carolina of the Bank of America. “That shortfall could reduce the availability of reliable child care even further, keeping all businesses from being able to fully staff up.”

John Lumpkin serves in two roles—he’s President of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation and also Vice President, Drivers of Health Strategy for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. The foundation, he said at the panel, “recently funded a survey of child care center staffing. More than 80 percent of surveyed care providers say that it is more difficult to hire and retain qualified staff now than it was before the pandemic.”

“The staffing crisis has forced one-third of providers to temporarily close their classrooms with little notice to parents,” Lumpkin said. “The disruptions affect our children and send parents, and other primary caregivers, scrambling.”

Child care managers are struggling to add and retain staff. “I have teachers on food stamps, struggling just to have gas money, making $10 an hour or $12 an hour. And these are people who are highly educated, just like our public school counterparts,” said Cassandra Brooks, the owner and operator of North Carolina’s Little Believer’s Academy, a child care provider. “I have people on my staff with a master’s in education, I have people with a doctorate in education. They should be honored—they should earn a worthy wage.”

North Carolina has historically been a national leader on early childhood issues. For more than 30 years, the state has pioneered significant advances in early childhood education policy for infants and toddlers and preschoolers. However, as ReadyNation’s report says, North Carolina’s state programs to provide education, professional development, and compensation for child care workers have been underfunded in recent years.

The report specifically cites budget shortfalls in the Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (T.E.A.C.H.) Early Childhood Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to two- and four-year degree programs in early childhood education; and the Child Care WAGE$ Project, which rewards increases in education with additional salary. North Carolina’s state budget begins to be voted on this week, with increases for Smart Start and child care assistance programs but no boost for child care worker compensation.

“North Carolina must continue to invest in these and additional strategies to ensure that all early educators receive the professional compensation and support they need to provide high-quality early learning experiences for all children and parents who want and need it,” Lumpkin said today.

Watch a recording of the event below: