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Jan 25, 2023 |
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Hello and happy new year! After taking a much-needed rest at the end of December, here at NCFL, we’ve hit the ground running in 2023! The turn of the year brings renewed hopes and dreams for families and communities, and we’ve recently learned news that has us very hopeful for the year to come!

Graphic with Dr. Felicia Cumings Smith's headshot and a red ribbon in the shape of a heart. The text reads At the Heart of Family Learning with Dr. Felicia Cumings Smith

The disruptions and setbacks caused by the pandemic illuminated how important parenting adults are to learning and student success, and families are now viewed more broadly as key partners in their child’s education. It is heartening to see that not only is this asset-based view gaining momentum with educators, administrators, and other community-based organizations but also is gaining traction among policymakers.

Just before concluding the 117th Congress, lawmakers came together in late December to approve a government funding deal for Fiscal Year 2023 that included landmark increases to programs that support high-impact family engagement and family learning. In addition to engaging with our national partners to advocate for these funding increases, NCFL has also conducted meetings with lawmakers and submitted feedback on Department of Education initiatives. We worked to showcase our successes and make the case for investments that elevate parent voice within the education system and support high-impact family learning systems. These investments serve to meet the needs of families and communities. Here’s a snapshot of programmatic funding that will benefit families furthest from opportunity: 

Parenting adults participate in programming at a family literacy site of the Arizona SFEC
Parenting adults participate in programming at a family literacy site of the Arizona SFEC

The Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) received $20 million, a $5 million increase over the previous year. Last fall, the U.S. Department of Education awarded organizations with funding to establish or continue SFECs in eight states. With the increased funding, we’re optimistic that ED will grant additional awards in 2023 to support families in more states. 

FACE program staff recently convened to learn, share ideas, and celebrate the learning impact for children and families in the FACE program
FACE program staff recently convened to learn, share ideas, and celebrate
the learning impact for children and families in the FACE program

The Family and Child Education (FACE) program, the only early childhood program operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), received $25.3 million, amounting to a $3.6 million increase. FACE is carried out in 53 American Indian communities across 11 states. For more than 30 years, NCFL has partnered with the BIE to provide training and support to educators who teach American Indian families participating in the FACE program.

I would like to give special thanks to Congressman John Yarmuth, who retired with the conclusion of the 117th Congress, for his support in securing a Community Funding Project that will allow NCFL to support and expand our Carnegie Family Science Project in Louisville, Kentucky. Congressman Yarmuth has been a longtime advocate for improving adult learning and family literacy outcomes, helping to build national awareness of both throughout his time serving in the House of Representatives. With seed funding provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, this project will engage students, their families, and school-based personnel by providing more innovative and equitable science-based educational opportunities. This project not only responds to the ongoing needs of educators to adapt by building their capacity to work alongside families in new ways, but will accelerate learning outcomes for families through projects that are connected to school-based OpenSciEd curriculum.

In addition to these funding increases, the following programs also received increased funding:

  • Full-Service Community Schools: $150M ($75M increase)
  • Title I Grants to LEAs: $18.3B ($850M increase)
  • Comprehensive Literacy Program: $194M ($2M increase)
  • Student Support/Academic Enrichment Grants: $1.38B ($100M increase)
  • Adult Ed State Grants: $729M ($25M increase)

These are huge wins for families and communities across the country! 

NCFL’s vision is that by 2030, aligned and coordinated family learning systems are established in 60 communities, built with and for families, to increase education and economic outcomes, creating more equitable communities. What drives change in communities is working across programming, training, research, evaluation, and policy. To truly spread and scale our work in communities nationwide, we must work locally with community partners as well as with policymakers at all levels.

In 2023, NCFL will continue to build on our federal policy work to ensure that elements of the Family Learning System (family literacy, family engagement, and family leadership) are supported. This work, along with NCFL’s efforts to identify strategic partnership opportunities with states and districts, will support achieving our 60x30 Vision. To learn more about our 60x30 Vision, read my past blog posts.

If you are part of a community that is ready to embark on this work with us, please reach out to


Dr. Felicia Cumings Smith

A lifelong educator and national thought leader for teaching and learning, Dr. Felicia C. Smith brings decades of valuable experience to advance NCFL’s mission of working to eradicate poverty through education solutions for families. Having served in a variety of leadership roles in P-12, higher education, nonprofit, and philanthropy, her career has allowed her to experience leading systems and develop a unique vantage point of a learner’s educational trajectory from preschool to adulthood. Smith holds an Ed.D. in education leadership and administration from the University of Kentucky, and an M.A. in elementary education with an emphasis on K-12 literacy development and B.S. in elementary education from the University of Louisville. 

Follow Dr. Felicia C. Smith on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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NCFL Partners

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Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.

Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.

Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities

William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

NCFL received its very first donation in 1989 from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to promote and implement family literacy programming, first in Kentucky and North Carolina and later nationwide. The Kenan Family Literacy Model in part laid the groundwork for 30 years of subsequent family literacy and family learning programming developed by NCFL.

Kenan has continued to support NCFL’s place-based family literacy programs since our inception. Most recently, it has invested in our organization’s Sharon Darling Innovation Fund, which will launch emerging ideas and programmatic evolutions in the multigenerational learning space.

Learn more about the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to guide potential students and volunteers to literacy services, community education programs, and testing centers in their communities.

The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.

Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

PNC Grow Up Great

PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.

PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994, most recently in Louisville, Kentucky, to support Say & Play with Words, our pre-Kindergarten vocabulary-building initiative.

NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.

Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great

U.S. Department of Education

Initiated through the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program provides 12 grantees and 13 states with five-year, $5 million grants to promote and implement systemic evidenced-based family engagement strategies. NCFL was selected to lead SFECs in two states, Arizona and Nebraska, and is a primary partner for two other SFECs in Kentucky and Maryland/Pennsylvania. 

The SFECs work to support family engagement through state- and local-level agencies while providing both professional development to school districts and direct services to families related to children’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.

Learn more about the U.S. Department of Education

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s "Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge," which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.

Foundation Website