Meck Pre-K program helps more than 1,000 kids get free daycare

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Mecklenburg County commissioners are expected to receive an update Tuesday night on how millions of taxpayer dollars are helping families pay for child care.

The county is funding programs to offer care free of charge, and it’s starting to pay off.

“Child care is expensive. It’s a huge expense for parents,” said Karen Smith-Jones, the executive director at Nana’s Place Learning Center.

The county launched Meck Pre-K last year to clear the waitlist for early child care. It's free for families who qualify.

[ALSO READ: Study: NC parents spend more per year on daycare than on in-state college tuition]

Nana’s Place is one of the first in the county to try it out. Smith-Jones said so far the classrooms are full.

“A lot of parents opt to not work because it’s cheaper to keep their children home than to experience a social setting and academic setting,” she said.

This year, the county increased the funding to $20 million, doubling the enrollment opportunities.

The added money allowed Meck Pre-K to open new classrooms and change the income requirements so more families could enroll their children.

“This has been very good in helping to partner with families and allowing them to be able to work and to have their children see some of their successes,” Smith-Jones said.

[PAST COVERAGE: Pre-K expansion creates more opportunities for students in Meck County]

The average family enrolled in the program makes just over $30,000 annually.

If you take child care out of the equation, families can save more of the money they earn.

The county said 1,600 children have been enrolled in high quality early child care education as of October.

Five percent of children joined higher-rated child care programs under the initiative.

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