At Alice’s Playground Center in Henderson County last year, Natasha Walker reads to a group of older infants ranging in age from 8 months to 12 months. Mike Belleme/Carolina Public Press.

Administrators of early childhood-education programs across Western North Carolina report they are struggling to operate within new state budget-related funding guidelines. Some have reorganized. Some have faced ending programs or no longer funding services in their communities.

Carolina Public Press looked at how many children are in enrolled in any type of licensed childcare or preschool programs, and found data show that more than one out of every four children age 5 and under in the 17 westernmost counties are spending time in early childhood programs.

The county with the most children in any type of licensed childcare or preschool is Swain, where more than half of the children age 5 or under are in these programs. The county with the fewest is Polk, where 11 percent of children are in these programs.

For information on your county, or the region as a whole, see below.

Editor Angie Newsome contributed to this report.

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Paul Clark is a contributing reporter for Carolina Public Press. Contact him at

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