Why it matters …

… the Smart Start Approach and the NC Pre-K Program …

Why does what we do matter?

Let’s begin with what the people of North Carolina first expressed through their elected officials more than a generation ago …

Preamble to the 1993 Smart Start Founding Legislation
143B-168.10. Early childhood initiatives; findings.
The General Assembly finds, upon consultation with the Governor, that every child can benefit from, and should have access to, high-quality early childhood education and development services. The economic future and well-being of the State depend upon it. To ensure that all children have access to high-quality early childhood education and development services, the General Assembly further finds that:
(1) Parents have the primary duty to raise, educate, and transmit values to young preschool children;
(2) The State can assist parents in their role as the primary caregivers and educators of young preschool children; and
(3) There is a need to explore innovative approaches and strategies for aiding parents and
families in the education and development of young preschool children. 

 [1993, c.321, s. 254(a); 1998- 212, s. 12.37B(a).]

In 1992, the national Kids Count Data Book ranked North Carolina 39th out of the 50 states on the health and well-being of its children. North Carolina families were working, and North Carolina child care regulations were among the poorest in the nation.


The view south along the Capitol Mall from the 1960’s-era NC State Legislative Building to the 1850’s-era State Capitol in Raleigh, NC.

North Carolina had one of the highest percentages (67%) of working mothers in the nation. Teacher turnover rate was almost 50% in child care programs. Child care, family, and health care services were fragmented and inadequate. Nearly 20% of North Carolina children under the age of six lived in poverty. Many did not receive basic immunizations. Nearly 10,000 families were on the waiting list for subsidized child care through the federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF). Some communities were without services particularly in rural areas of the state. In other areas, services existed, but families had no transportation to access them.

In order to address this wide array of needs, there needed to be systemic change, not merely another program added to the menu. North Carolina seized the moment, and Smart Start was established in 1993.

Smart Start is a public-private initiative that provides early education funding to all of the state 100 counties. It was launched in 1993 to ensure that every child in the state begins school healthy and prepared to succeed. The Smart Start approach brings government, the nonprofit sector, business, civic, faith and community groups, and families together at state and local levels to do the right thing by our children, our economy, and our future by improving the lives of young children and their families.

North Carolina was the first state to fund a statewide early childhood system that offered a wide range of health, education, parent-support, and child care services to promote school and life success for all children. Managed at the state level by the North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. (NCPC), Smart Start funds are administered or re-granted at the local level through a network of local, independent, nonprofit organizations, often referred to as local partnerships.

The power of the Smart Start approach is that it delivers outcomes by giving communities local control to determine the best approach to achieving them.

The NC Pre-K Program, originally founded in 2001 as More at Four, provides high-quality, classroom-based educational experiences to enhance school readiness for eligible four-year-old children. The NC Pre-K Program statewide eligibility requirements reflect the reality that to be successful academically and socially in school, children need to be prepared in all five of the developmental domains outlined by the National Education Goals Panel, and adopted and reiterated in North Carolina Foundations: Early Learning Standards for North Carolina Preschoolers and Strategies for Guiding Their Success:

  • Approaches to learning
  • Emotional and social development
  • Health and physical development
  • Language development and communication
  • Cognitive development

Founded in 1994 as the Forsyth Early Education Partnership, Inc., Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc. (SSFC) has been serving the birth-to-five population as the NCPC-affiliated organization in Forsyth County. With resources through SSFC contract with NCPC and other private and public funds raised by SSFC dedicated volunteer leadership and professional staff-SSFC supports children, parents, educators, owners and operators of early learning homes and centers, partnering organizations, and policy makers through direct services, collaborative programs, strategic investments, consumer education, and public education and advocacy.

Guided by its vision for the community and corporate mission, SSFC is building, serving, and leading the way to assist the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County community to strengthen, expand,  and sustain an affordable, comprehensive, high quality system of early childhood development and learning.

Since the original founding of the More at Four Program, SSFC has administered the NC Pre-K Program in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County through direct-service contracts with Family Services, Inc., the Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools, and a number of local, independent, private child care facilities.

Measuring the Difference Our Difference Makes …

The Board of Directors of the North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. (NCPC) has established measurable, statewide goals for increasing the health, well-being and development of North Carolina children birth to five. Affiliated local organizations, such as Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc., then take responsibility for making decisions about how best to achieve those goals based on the needs and resources in their local communities … Download the full report


The Power, Promise, and Profound Importance of High Quality Early Childhood Development and Learning Settings in Our Community …

The North Carolina General Assembly established the Smart Start Program in 1993 as an innovative solution to a problem: Children were coming to school unprepared to learn. Policymakers recognized that progress would require tapping into the same innovative spirit that inspired private sector advances, and therefore, established Smart Start as a public/private partnership. Independent, private organizations work in all 100 North Carolina counties through The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., and 76 Local Partnerships. The power of Smart Start is that it delivers outcomes by giving communities local control to determine the best approach to achieving them.

Take a moment to follow this story as it might play out in one community …