Commitment to Equitable Access

With an abundance of evidence that high-quality universal preschool could reduce the disparities in skills among sub-groups of children at kindergarten entry, Durham’s policymakers are focusing considerable resources on the development and expansion of quality preschool programs for four year olds. Durham has made historic local investments in preschool services in order to open access more broadly for children.

  • there are six low-income preschool children in Durham for every one currently publicly funded preschool space in NC Pre-K, Durham Public Schools (DPS) and Head Start
  • over a quarter of Durham census tracts with more than 50 low-income preschoolers have no publicly funded preschool slots
  • 92% of Durham parents (n=2000) who completed a random survey in 2018, rated cost-free preschool as desirable or essential.

We know that children from lower-income households are often left behind, furthering inequality and setting the stage for the achievement gap that persists through high school. A critical component of this ambitious initiative in Durham is the implementation of preschool classrooms across diverse settings. Expanding services in both the public schools and in community-based programs is the key to success.

Equity in Early Childhood Education

Racial Equity

"As a Board, the investment in Durham PreK is one of the most important investments that we are making in our County. The relationship of accessible, high-quality pre-K to equity at the child and system levels is why this investment is so critical. The funding we provide for Durham PreK is a direct investment in a more equitable child care system and in more equitable futures for young children in our County."


Equitable Teacher Compensation

Durham PreK is committed to supporting teachers through equitable pay, weekly coaching, and comprehensive professional development opportunities. The 2019 North Carolina Child Care Workforce Study found that preschool teachers (ages 3-5) in North Carolina had a median hourly wage of $13.00, and preschool assistant teachers in North Carolina had a median hourly wage of $11.31. Though these wages have increased over the years, they still are not comparable to the salaries of public school teachers. To address these disparities, Durham PreK Lead Teachers are required to be paid on the Durham Public Schools Salary Schedule based on their years of experience. During the 2020-2021 school year, the median annual salary for Durham PreK Lead Teachers is $48,048 with a range of $35,500 to $64,885. The median hourly rate for Durham PreK Teacher Assistants is $15 per hour.

The Durham PreK Governance Committee understands that the pay parity requirement with public schools for licensed teachers may be a financial burden for some private community-based child care centers and other programs. To address this,  they voted to implement monthly Teacher Compensation Support Payments which are paid to the centers in addition to the $1250 per child per month reimbursements. The Compensation Support Payment is based on a graduated scale which takes into account the monthly salary and teacher’s years of experience, and is available to all providers with lead teachers required to be paid on the Durham Public Schools salary schedule. The Compensation Support Payment begins at 5% of the teacher’s monthly salary at 0 years of experience and is increased by 1% in years 1 and 2, by 1.5% in years 3-14, and by .3% in years 15 and beyond.

The goals of Durham PreK are to:

  • Improve Classroom Instruction
  • Support Family Engagement
  • Build Capacity for High Quality

To read more about the state of Durham County’s young children, task force recommendations for preschool expansion in Durham County and Durham County’s Preschool Supply and Demand Study, please view the reports below.


UPDATE: The Durham PreK Governance Committee voted on August 19, 2021 to waive parent fees for the 2021-2022 school year. The Durham PreK Application is still open! Click here to access the application information and materials.