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By Will Doran April 7, 2017

A federal grant could fund child care improvements, Cooper says

When Roy Cooper was running for governor, early childhood development was a key plank in his education platform.

We're tracking several promises, including one to expand NC Pre-K and Smart Start, and another promise to reinstate a tax credit for child care expenses.

Both of those promises, if fulfilled, would make pre-school and child care programs more affordable and more widely available.

Cooper also pledged to increase the quality of child care programs statewide.

"I will encourage greater partnerships within our education system to help more childcare facilities enhance programming and staffing to boost the number of 4-star and even 5-star facilities available to families," Cooper's official platform promised. "At the same time, I will ensure that the state continues to increase early childhood licensing standards so that we are always striving to create the highest quality early childcare programs possible."

He made the first step toward accomplishing this promise in his proposed budget, when he suggested that the General Assembly create 11 new state jobs dedicated to overseeing child care programming, and working with individual providers to increase their quality. It will cost $817,000 a year, Cooper estimated.

Some of the jobs would focus on issues specific to toddlers, or on broader professional development initiatives, or on the licensing standards that Cooper referenced. Other jobs would be in management or fraud prevention.

The money wouldn't come from the state budget, but rather from federal funds called the Child Care and Development Fund block grant. That grant was most recently reauthorized in 2014 and will expire in 2020, at which time it may or may not be re-authorized.

States can apply for the grant money for half a dozen different reasons, including Cooper's stated goal of improving the overall quality of child care.

Cooper's plan is far from a done deal yet, but his official budget recommendation is a start. We rate this promise In The Works.

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