Ready Louisiana Coalition urges legislators to appropriate $94M to early care, education programs

BATON ROUGE – Ready Louisiana Coalition members gathered Tuesday for the fourth annual Early Ed Day at the Capitol to call on legislators to invest $94 million in state funds in early care and education (ECE) programs to help working parents succeed and set their children up for success in school and life.

Coalition representatives – including businesses, chambers of commerce, advocacy groups, United Ways, ECE professionals and parents – hosted a press conference alongside Gov. John Bel Edwards, highlighting the critical and ongoing need to increase funding for and improve access to quality ECE programs for all children birth through age four across the state.

“Families with young children continue to rely on child care and make decisions about child care based on factors that support parent/guardian employment and education – yet families still experience challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and struggle to find care easily,” said Dr. Timothy Magner, president of the Greater Shreveport Chamber. “If parents cannot access child care, their ability to keep gainful employment is at risk, and we must do better to allow low-income parents to work and provide for their families.”

In 2019, the bipartisan Louisiana Early Childhood Care and Education Commission unanimously approved a bold plan to address the lack of high-quality, affordable child care for children in need. The Commission’s plan, Investing in Our Future: LA B to 3, calls for the state to invest substantially in high-quality ECE over the next decade.

Ready LA’s proposed $94-million ECE investment is within reach during the 2022 session via two funding streams: an appropriation of $44 million in HB 1 that would give $25 million to expand the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and roughly $18 million to improve rates offered to existing four-year-old programs, and a second appropriation of $50 million in one-time funding in HB 406 to the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund, which offers local entities a dollar-for-dollar state match to fund ECE programs.

“Recently, the Early Childhood Care and Education Commission found that it would take a $115 million investment, with subsequent investments for 10 years, for Louisiana to ensure every at-risk child who needs access to an early care and education program can have one, and the proposed investment is a step in the right direction,” said Dr. Libbie Sonnier, executive director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children. “If we kick the can down the road, in 10 years, Louisiana will experience a collective $12.1 billion loss. But if we make the right investments, we will experience a collective $1.8 billion economic gain.”

For three years, Louisiana has experienced a budget surplus while spending less than one-half of 1% of its revenue on the education of our youngest children, yet ECE spending provides one of the best returns on investments – up to 13% per year.

The Coalition’s 2022 joint statement outlines the impacts a $94-million appropriation would have on the state’s ECE programs, including:

●      Expanded access for at-risk children, birth to age three, to receive full-time, year-round quality care;

●      Improved quality for successful LA4 programs;

●      Incentivized local investment in ECE by using one-time funds to offer communities a dollar-for-dollar match on their efforts;

●      Support for thousands of parents to be productive members of the workforce while choosing the high-quality ECE programs that work best for their children;

●      More ECE jobs to serve children in communities all across the state;

●      Increased support for child care businesses across Louisiana; and

●      A stronger Louisiana economy, which loses $1.3 billion a year due to the impacts of child care breakdowns on working parents. 

“Behind the numbers are real families who desperately need help affording quality care for their young children,” said Charmaine Caccioppi, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana. “Every parent wants the best for their child, and we can take steps to ensure a family’s economic situation doesn’t limit their options and opportunities.”

In Louisiana, the average family spends $8,500 a year on child care. For many households, it is the largest part

of their budget, meaning many parents either can’t go to work, go broke in the process or have to settle for unsafe, low-quality care. Children without a strong foundation will have more difficulty learning and succeeding when they start elementary school and face lifelong achievement and opportunity gaps, especially for economically disadvantaged groups and populations of color.

“According to the most recent ALICE data, Louisiana ranked highest with 57% of our state’s children living in households struggling to afford the basics going into the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating natural disasters over the past two years,” said Sarah Berthelot, president and CEO of the Louisiana Association of United Ways. “The pathway for our state’s equitable recovery is paved by prioritizing steady investments in children, their working parents and proven approaches to strengthen our economy. Our policymakers can clear the way by prioritizing funding toward this end.”

As the state and local municipalities invest more in children, taxpayers save on remedial education, social programs, health care and criminal justice in the long-term, while parents have more help putting their children on pathways to success in education, society and life.

“The early educators are nurturing my children by using age-appropriate learning materials and curriculum and are supporting positive interpersonal interactions and most importantly, fostering a safe and secure learning environment for my young child as well as other Louisiana babies,” said Celeste Carter, parent of twins. “A high-quality child care program makes a difference, and I have seen the benefits that it has had on my twins. I’m able to do my job without having to worry about whether or not my children are okay or if their child care arrangement will fall through, on top of all the other things on my plate during the day.”

To learn more about the Ready Louisiana Coalition and the organizations involved, please visit readylouisiana.org.

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