Since being elected in 2016, my top policy priority has been working on early childhood education and development issues - how we can make Buncombe County a place where every child has an equal opportunity to thrive.
I'm so excited that the county's new Early Childhood Education and Development Fund officially launched on July 1, 2019, ushering in a permanent commitment to the youngest children in our community. With this fund, the county has committed $3.6 million annually in county funding to support the county's priority of ensuring that every child has an opportunity thrive in their first 2,000 days, including expanding access to quality early childhood education. I'm grateful to serve on a County Commission that places prioritizes early childhood issues: the Fund was approved by a 6-1 vote and there is strong engagement on these issues across the Commission.
You can read more about this work on the county website and in media coverage. And you can read the full listing of projects receiving funding for FY 2020 here. It's an incredible line of projects.
All this really sunk in for me last week when the county hosted grantees for an orientation. In that packed room, people who are on the frontlines of educating and caring for our children shared stories about what this new funding will mean - new classrooms opening to serve more children, increasing teacher and staff pay to a living wage, being able to respond to the needs of children impacted by trauma. It was pretty emotional and pretty inspiring.
As part of this process, we also launched a 15-member Early Childhood Education and Development Committee, comprised of 3 County Commissioners - myself, Commissioners Pressley and Whitesides - and 12 community members who bring rich and diverse leadership and lived experience to this body. The work of this committee, which included reviewing grant applications totaling $7.8 million dollars and bringing funding recommendations to the Board of Commissioners, has been supported by county staff who have worked hard to ensure that accessibility and transparency are key features of the start up of this fund.
Everywhere I go, I talk about the experiences of children in Buncombe County and part of what motivates me is hearing how passionate people are about this issue. That local engagement tracks with what polling data from across the state tell us, which is that a commanding majority of people, across the political spectrum, support public funding for early childhood education.
I'll keep sharing updates here and invite you to follow along as this work keeps growing.