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North Carolina

The Alliance’s lead ally in North Carolina, NC Child, advances thoughtful policy solutions around early childhood education, child health and well-being, and family economic security. They do this through conducting and analyzing evidence-based research and data, collaborating with leaders at the North Carolina General Assembly, and engaging communities across North Carolina’s 100 counties.

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2023 State Early Childhood Policy Environment and Progress

State early childhood policy progress is dependent both on the state’s policy environment and the numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

Early Childhood Landscape:

Research shows that family economic security is foundational to children’s overall wellbeing. Research also shows that widespread disparities in opportunity (especially by race) drive wide disparities in outcomes. States with policies that offer strong support to young children and their families are more likely to see 1) declining numbers of children in low-income households and 2) low racial disparity among those children. 

Young Children in Low-Income Households: Declining

Approximately 43% (452,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (2021). This number represents a decrease from 49% (530,000) in 2016.1

Racial Disparity Among Young Children Living in Low-Income Households: High

Black, Hispanic/Latino, and/or Native children aged 0-8 are significantly more likely to be living in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level than are Asian and non-Hispanic White children.2

Advocacy Landscape:

State General Fund Appropriations: Growing 

On September 22, the North Carolina legislature approved a biennial budget for fiscal years 2024 and 2025. On October 3, the budget became law without the governor’s signature. The biennial budget includes net general fund appropriations of $29.7 billion in fiscal 2024, an increase of $2.2 billion, or 7.9 percent, over the base. For fiscal 2025, net general fund appropriations are $30.8 billion, an increase of $1.1 billion, or 3.8 percent, over fiscal 2024. The revised consensus revenue forecast estimates general fund revenues of $33.7 billion in fiscal 2024 and $33.4 billion in fiscal 2025. The expected unappropriated balance remaining in fiscal 2024 is $1.6 billion and is $221.0 million in fiscal 2025. .3

Largest Per Capita Revenue Sources (after federal transfers) (FY 2021):4

    • Charges: $2,107 per capita
    • Individual Income Taxes: $1,506 per capita

Charges are public payments connected with a specific government service, such as tuition paid to a state university, payments to a public hospital, or highway tolls. 

Permanent State Funding Stream Dedicated to Early Childhood: Yes

Guidelines from the North Carolina legislature dictate a portion of lottery proceeds is spent on pre-k. In 2020, 11 percent of lottery revenue (almost $79 million) went to fund pre-k in the state.

Political Alignment: Divided

During the 2023 session, the state’s Senate and House were both Republican controlled. The state’s Governor was a Democrat.5

Types of Common Ballot Measures Available:6  One

    • Legislature-Initiated Constitutional Amendments – A constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Organizations Include:

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Multi-State Initiatives Include:7

2023 Policy Progress:

Advocates worked with policymakers to enact several important policy changes that will make children’s lives better in North Carolina.  However, there are still many more opportunities to invest in the needs of young children and families – notably family economic security, mental health, and early childhood education. 

Highlights from the state’s early childhood policy advocacy community include5:

$8M in funds to support Pre-K classroom needs. $8 million in federal funding is being allocated to help with the needs of Pre-K classrooms across the state.

Medicaid expansion. Medicaid expansion will allow more people to get health care coverage. The eligible population will increase for adults ages 19 through 64 earning up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level.
Single adults earning about $20,000 per year or families of three with an annual income of about $34,000
may be eligible.

$6 million dollars this year to cover the cost of meals for students who qualify for reduced-price meals at schools. The appropriation will cover all 25,000 low-income students statewide who are currently paying for reduced-cost meals out of pocket. Also, beginning in 2024, additional state funding will be available to schools that sign up for a federal program that requires universal free meals.

ECE subsidy rate increase to the 2021 market rate. The Care for Women, Children, and Families Act also decouples private tuition payment rates from the subsidized child care market rates for licensed child care centers and homes. The bill also includes $32M in recurring funds in 2023-2024 and $43M recurring funding in 2024-2025 for increased subsidy rates.

A new state office of child fatality prevention.

Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy:

The Alliance’s lead grantee in North Carolina, NC Child, is working to advance early childhood policies in several areas that align with the Alliance’s birth-through-eight policy framework

Early Care and Education

Child Care

Child Care Workforce

Preschool and Pre-K


Child and
Maternal Health

Maternal Health

Infant & Child Health


Early Childhood Infrastructure

Click here and here for more information on advocates’ policy agenda.


North Carolina Allies Center Lived Experience and Racial Equity to Strengthen the Early Childhood Social-Emotional Health System

Advocates at NC Child partnered with the NC Early Childhood Foundation to launch the EarlyWell Initiative in 2019 to lead the implementation of recommendations from the Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Action Framework. The EarlyWell initiative is informed by the voices of parents and caregivers to ensure that system best reflects the needs and lived experiences of North Carolina communities.

Read More »


1 Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, November, 2022 

2 National Center for Children in Poverty, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, March 2023, NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample 2021

3 National Association of State Budget Officers, Summaries of Fiscal Year 2024 Enacted Budgets, October 11, 2023.

4 Urban Institute, State Fiscal Briefs, July 2023

5 National Conference of State Legislatures, 2023 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 28, 2023.

6 Ballotpedia, Ballot Measures by State, Kids Count Data Center, retrieved May, 2023.

7 Alliance for Early Success, Multi-State Initiatives for Early Childhood Policy Advocacy, April, 2022.

8 Alliance for Early Success, State-Wide Advocacy Highlights Survey, April-August, 2023.  

More State Policy Data:

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North Carolina
North Carolina

More State Demographic Data:

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North Carolina