Early Childhood Education

Critical Needs for Critical Years

Brain research has proven that high-quality early learning experiences in a child’s first five years after birth literally determine a child’s potential for future learning success.  In addition, public investments in early care and education yield as much as a 13% annual return on investment. [1]

Nearly half of Louisiana’s children enter kindergarten without the basic skills needed to succeed in school, and those who start behind are more likely to stay behind.[2] As a result of the Early Childhood Education Act of 2012, Louisiana created a fully integrated, comprehensive network of publicly-funded providers of early care and education. The statewide network has uniform accountability and enrollment systems, which are resulting in the more efficient delivery of services and better preparation for kindergarten. Lacking are funding resources to ensure adequate access and quality of early care and education for at-risk children.

For at-risk children ages birth to three years old, there are critical gaps in access to publicly-funded early care and education services. In addition, the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), which provides early care and education funding assistance to families in poverty, has been cut nearly 70% since 2009, resulting in 25,000 fewer families receiving CCAP support.[3] This is especially alarming in light of Louisiana’s high rate of poverty.

For many parents in Louisiana the cost of child care outweighs the benefits of staying in the workforce, affecting a parent’s ability to work productively, stay in school, or enroll in training programs to lift their families out of poverty.[4] Recent studies done in Louisiana and Michigan show that, for many working parents with very young children, the lack of affordable and accessible childcare is a significant barrier to workforce participation.[5] The Louisiana study, Losing Ground- How Child Care Impacts Louisiana’s Workforce Productivity and the State Economy (2017), found severe economic costs to Louisiana employers and workers is caused by child care instability in the state.  Employee absences and turnover costs due to child care breakdowns cost Louisiana employers $816 million a year, and results in a $1.1 billion annual loss for the state’s economy.  

Funding Early Care & Education

In response to House Concurrent Resolution 61 (2014), which called for the creation of a funding model for the implementation of the Early Childhood Education Act of 2012 (Act 3), the Louisiana Department of Education created a model which identified the need for $80 million to provide adequate access, quality, and equity for the statewide early care and education system.  In 2015, House Concurrent Resolution 174 urged BESE to identify funding sources and a funding strategy to fully implement Act 3 in accordance with the funding model. In January 2016 BESE accepted a report by the Ad Hoc Funding Work Group of the Early Care and Education Advisory Council.[6]

The work group also identified potential funding sources to implement the model, all of which remain viable options for Louisiana to consider:[7]

  • Reallocating existing federal TANF funds to support upgrading quality in child care.
  • Reallocating State General Funds to early care and education by including child care and Pre-K in the current Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence program. As the state budget improves, allocate additional State General Funds to early childhood.
  • Dedicate current and future revenue source(s) to early childhood, such as reserving between 5 – 10 percent of any reduction in tax credits or deductions, reserving a portion of any increases in tax revenues, creating new revenue streams for early childhood as exist in other states, such as tobacco and cigarette taxes, gambling taxes, beer and soft drink taxes, lottery funds, etc.
  • Explore innovative options such as Social Impact Bond initiatives and municipal bond financing, and explore adding Pre-K into the Minimum Foundation Program, while ensuring the availability of diverse delivery settings

“The business community has a large role it can play,” according to Melanie Bronfin, Executive Director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children. “They can join the Louisiana Early Childhood Business Roundtable, a statewide network of business leaders that educates and engages the business community, policy makers and the media to promote high quality early care and education (go to www.laecbr.org), they can work within their individual chambers and business councils to include ECE as a legislative priority, and they can speak out on behalf of policy makers who do champion this issue.” [8] 

[1] Louisiana Policy Institute for Children.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Louisiana Department of Education.

[4] Louisiana Policy Institute for Children.

[5] U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, “How Childcare Strengthens Today’s Workforce.

[6] Louisiana Department of Education.

[7] Ibid

[8] Louisiana Policy Institute for Children.

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