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preschool in Buncombe County

Preschool in Buncombe County


Buncombe County has roughly 13,000 children ages 0-5. Only 36% of 3-year-olds and 46% of 4-year-olds are enrolled in any kind of child care or preschool.


Early education is now more expensive than college tuition,  and public funding supports only a small percentage of families who need it.


Nearly 50% of local programs reported in May, 2021 that they could serve more children if they could find qualified early educators.

Preschool, or Pre-K, generally means play-based education for 3 to 5-year-olds. Pre-K comes in many different shapes, sizes, funding sources, and program models. Here’s a look at the Buncombe Pre-K landscape:

Private Pay

Head Start

  • Preschool classrooms for 3- and 4-year-olds

  • Classrooms mostly located in elementary schools

  • No cost to families with incomes below the federal poverty limit ($26,500 for a family of four)

  • School year and school day (10-month program; 6.5 hours/day)

  • Federally funded

  • Buncombe’s administrator is Community Action Opportunities

  • NOTE: Early Head Start is also available for pregnant women through a child’s 3rd birthday, administered by Verner Center for Early Learning.

NC Pre-K

  • Preschool classrooms for 4-year-olds

  • Classrooms mostly located in private child care centers

  • No cost to families with incomes below 75% of the state median income ($57,542 for a family of four)

  • School year and school day (10-month program; 6.5 hours/day)

  • State funded (at roughly 60% of actual cost of care)

  • Buncombe’s administrator is Buncombe Partnership for Children

Buncombe county preschool

Other components of the Buncombe preschool system include:

Developmental Day

  • Preschool slots for 3- and 4-year olds with certain diagnosed delays and an Individual Education Plan (IEP)

  • Funded spots in private child care centers

  • No cost to families

  • School year and school day (10-month program; 6.5 hours/day; summer care available at families’ expense)

  • Federally funded

  • Administered by Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools

Child Care Subsidy Program

  • Vouchers to reduce the cost of 4- and 5-star child care programs

  • Families choose among 4- and 5-star programs that participate in Child Care Subsidy

  • Families must pay 10% of gross monthly income; some programs also charge families the difference between the state voucher reimbursement and their tuition rate.

  • For full-day, half-day, summer programs, and extended day care

  • Federal and state funding

  • Buncombe’s administrator is Buncombe County Health & Human Services.

Mountain Child Care Connections

  • A child care information and referral service for families

  • Accessed through their website or phone number (877-752-5955)

  • Families can ask questions and explain their preferences, and MCCC will provide a list of programs that fit their needs.

  • MCCC does not provide any financial supports, but it may help families locate programs with such supports.

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