MECK Pre-K Registration for the 2022-2023 School Year is Now Open

March 2022

Registration is now open for MECK Pre-K. All children residing in Mecklenburg County who will be four years old on or before August 31, 2022 are eligible for the 2022-2023 school year. Find out what you need to apply by visiting the enrollment page on our website.


Four years after the launch of MECK Pre-K, the program is excited to begin enrollment for the fifth year. All children residing in Mecklenburg County who turn four on or before August 31 can enroll to attend high-quality, free pre-k to prepare them to enter Kindergarten. This is a significant achievement that will set the trajectory for a lifetime of learning.

MECK Pre-K is a County-funded program administered by Smart Start of Mecklenburg County.  This program, along with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' Bright Beginnings, and the state's pre-K program, NC Pre-K, serve a total of 5,800 children in the 2021-2022 school year.  The number of children served in Pre-K programs is up 45% since MECK Pre-K started.

In 2014, the Chetty Study ranked Charlotte last among the 50 largest US cities. Mecklenburg was ranked 99 out of 100 counties in upward mobility. 

In response, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force released the Opportunity Task Force Report intended to be a living document. The document offers 21 strategies, recommendations, and tactics to engage our community while establishing the Leading on Opportunity Council.

After the Leading on Opportunity Task Force and the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners identified access to early care and early childhood education as policy priorities, County Manager Dena Diorio created the Early Childhood Education Executive Committee (ECE) to strategize how to expand early childhood education access. 

In 2017, the ECE released a plan that included clearing the childcare waitlist for children from birth to age 5, creating universal Pre-K for four-year-old children, and investing in talent development strategies to support high-quality childcare and Pre-K programs. 

Supported through increased funding from the 2019 budget, Mecklenburg County launched a public Pre-K program, MECK Pre-K, to provide universal Pre-K across the county.  Smart Start of Mecklenburg County was thrilled to administer the innovative program.

Research continues to show that the impact of children attending pre-k goes far beyond the early childhood years. In a recent study, The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early-Childhood Program, it is shown that every $1 invested in early childhood care and education generates more than $7 in returns. Pre-k provides the strong foundation needed for children to be successful in every stage of their education journey and eventually grow into self-sufficient adults who contribute to the strength of their community.

In the next school year, MECK Pre-K will again offer 1,890 seats with an intensive awareness campaign in hopes of filling all seats. Please visit to learn more or apply for high-quality, free pre-k.

MECK Pre-K is an administered program of Smart Start of Mecklenburg County. Three foundational pillars guide the organization: innovating, collaborating & convening, and investing.

Smart Start of Mecklenburg County mobilizes resources, forges partnerships, and supports families to improve early childhood health, education and development, and ensure children enter kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed.