More than half of Mecklenburg County’s 4-year old children are now in public pre-kindergarten classes available in three different programs: Bright Beginnings, NC Pre-K and Meck Pre-K, according to a report presented last month in a joint meeting of the Mecklenburg County Commissioners and the board of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS).
WFAE 90.7 reported on the meeting.
The newest program is the two-year-old Meck Pre-K, a county-funded program administered through Smart Start of Mecklenburg County. Bright Beginnings is available at more than three dozen sites in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. NC Pre-K is offered at more than two dozen private childcare sites throughout the county.
A student must be four years old by Aug. 31, 2020 to qualify for these programs. There are 5,960 students in the three programs, which is just under 51 percent of the county’s 11,742 kindergarten students. By 2024, the county is aiming for 80-percent enrollment.
"People marvel at what we are embarking to do, which is to make sure every single 4-year-old has the opportunity in Mecklenburg County to have a quality early childhood education," said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller, who led the push to pay for pre-K. "That is a huge thing, and I want to acknowledge that for our community."
Admission standards vary. State and county programs look at family income with different income limits applying to different programs.
Bright Beginnings is part of CMS and is paid for with money from federal programs and the county. It screens children based on what skills they still need for kindergarten.
There is still some confusion about which programs parents should apply for. Fuller and Commission Chair George Dunlap see specific places for families to apply and find out for which programs they qualify.
"Parents are frustrated because they don't know which program to apply for," Dunlap said.