After months of planning, applications, and deliberation, Buncombe County’s Early Childhood Education and Development Committee finalized allocated funding for $3.6 million dollars to schools and local organizations to make positive, lifelong impacts on our children. In October 2018, the Board of Commissioners voted to establish the fund and a committee for funding recommendations. Early childhood education is one of the Board of Commissioners’ six strategic priorities, and the following goals identified for funding:
- System approach – collaborating with community leaders and stakeholders
- Availability – increasing access to high-quality early childhood care and education
- Affordability – making it affordable for all families
- Workforce – supporting a robust career track in the field of early childhood education
- Family Support – creating a system that responds to needs of families dealing with trauma, poverty, and addiction
“There is a crisis of need for new classrooms and new child care slots, and there is a conjoined crisis of not enough qualified teachers with the pay and benefits for their retention. There are achievement gaps associated with a lack of quality early childhood education. It is our honor and responsibility [as the committee] to provide funding to reach our goal helping every child within the county succeed during their first 2,000 days,” says District 1 Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara.
FUNDING: BY THE NUMBERS
Funding totaled $3.6 million with plans from the board to increase it by 2 percent annually. $1.95 million is allocated to new grants for fiscal year 2020, and $1.65 million is allocated to renewing commitments for FY20. “$3.6M sounds like a lot of money, but we had a lot of requests and we had to narrow it down to that amount,” says District 3 Commissioner Robert Pressley. “Moving forward, we hope to start seeing positive results in 3-5 years. I want to be able to look back at the end of my term and say look what we’ve done.”
The funding is divided among 19 different projects within 11 organizations:
New Grants for FY20
- Asheville City Schools - $193,147 – Expanding High-Quality Early Childhood Education with ACS Preschool Program.
- Buncombe County Schools - $500,000 – Increasing Access to High-Quality Early Care and Education at Emma Elementary School
- Buncombe County Schools - $400,000 – Early Childhood Education Development Program/Career & Technical Education program expansion
- Buncombe Partnership for Children - $113,019 –Early Childhood Teacher Workforce Development Program
- Buncombe Partnership for Children - $77,900 – Early Childhood Systems Coordination
- Buncombe Partnership for Children - $25,000 – Family Child Care Home Expansion Project
- Companeros Inmigrantes de la Montanas en Accion (CIMA) - $36,161 – Emma Early Childhood Educators Cooperative and Bilingual ECE Shared Services Network
- Community Action Opportunities - $267,173 – BOOST Buncombe families and teachers
- Eliada Homes, Inc. - $86,895 –Child Development Expansion and Enhancement Project
- Evolve Early Learning - $36,161 –Early Learning Preschool and Community Center open to sustainable
- Irene Wortham Center - $61,438 – Early Learning Center Program update
- YWCA of Asheville and Western NC - $151,000 – YWCA Early Learning Program expansion and quality enhancement
Renewing Commitments for FY20
- Asheville City Schools - $851,411 – Local Preschool
- Asheville City Schools - $29,036 – Christine Avery Learning Center
- Buncombe County Partnership for Children - $153,000 – Professional and System Development
- Community Action Opportunities - $131,916 – Johnston Elementary classroom
- Southwestern Child Development - $207,508 – Valley Child Development Center
- Warren Wilson College - $200,235 – PEECE Program
- YWCA of Asheville and Western NC - $79,000 – Early Learning Program
LOCAL ISSUE – WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
There is a well-documented local shortage of quality early childhood education programs in our community. There is also a shortage of qualified teachers, classroom professionals, and funding for the qualified teachers we do have. Local families also face many barriers to accessing existing programs, including affordability. High quality early care and education, from infant care to pre-k, has proven results for children, their families, and communities.
The overall goal of the fund is to ensure that every child in Buncombe County has an equal opportunity to thrive during their first 2,000 days; including access to quality early childhood education. The committee is doing this by engaging with community partners, soliciting public input, making public policy, and recommendations in conjunction with funding grants to local organizations to improve this local problem. “If we are going to be successful as Commissioners, we can’t think from one election to the next, we have to think about how we can help the community long after we’re done,” said District 1 Commissioner Al Whitesides, on the importance of the committee.
CREATION AND FUNDING PROCESS
To create the committee, Commissioners determined there should be an inclusive group of community members with diverse expertise and perspectives on early childhood education. Twenty-eight applications to join the committee were submitted and decided upon by Commissioners. After the creation of the 15-member committee and $3.6 million funding allocation by Commissioners, Buncombe County Strategic Partnerships created a plan of action leading to an advertisement for applications for funding. The committee members spent six weeks reviewing the applications and multiple meetings to determine funding and closed their June 6 meeting with a unanimous vote on funding allocations.
MEET THE COMMITTEE
The Early Childhood Education and Development Committee is made up of Commissioners, local business owners, medical professionals, parents, retirees, community investment specialists, and representatives of higher education. Committee member Rich Johnson said, “The value of this committee lies in its inclusion of members representing varied interests and segments within the early childhood education and development community. Great efforts were expended to include representatives from different roles, different portions of the county, and different bases of experience in order to create a diverse, representative body.”
Current board members are:
Jasmine Beach-Ferrara – District 1 County Commissioner
Robert Pressley – District 3 County Commissioner
Al Whitesides – District 1 County Commissioners
Kit Cramer – Business/Economic Development
Phillip Belcher – Funder/Community Investment
Mistie Reising-Cogbill – Higher Education
Dr. Susan Mims – Medical Professional
Chavaun Letman – Parent
Christy Cheek – Retiree
Edward “Rich” Johnston – Community Member
Glenda Weinert – Community Member
Himanshu Karvir – Community Member
Jane Hatley – Community Member
Kidada Wynn – Community Member
Leslie Anderson – Community Member
For more information visit: buncombecounty.org/grants.