Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Dean: Access to early care, education for low-income families is crucial for NWLA and Louisiana’s success

by BIZ Magazine

As a business leader in Northwest Louisiana, I am acutely aware of the short- and long-term economic challenges our region faces. Our economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic has been steady, but we are not out of the woods yet. In Louisiana, 30% of in-need children aged birth to four lack access to high-quality care. We cannot rest knowing that 325,215 children will not have access to critical programs that aid in healthy child development and provide the foundational skills required for a successful transition to school and future academic achievement.

Luckily, February is Early Ed Month in Louisiana–an opportunity for policymakers and business leaders to learn more about this crucial aspect of our education system and economy. Our state loses $1.3 billion annually in economic activity due to child care breakdowns impacting workers, and our children aren’t faring much better, with only 40% of them arriving at kindergarten meeting critical benchmarks.

The United Way of Northwest Louisiana has been concerned about the lack of access to high-quality early care and education for impoverished and low-income families for years. That’s why it, in partnership with the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children and other United Ways, has organized events throughout the month of February to educate leaders and empower parents.

This year, Louisiana Early Ed Month is more important than ever as our state leadership faces a daunting task in Baton Rouge. During the COVID-19 pandemic, state leaders used one-time federal funds to help more working families access high-quality care for their children. That funding is set to expire this year and next, leaving 16,000 children without access to safe, reliable child care while their parents are at work. We cannot afford to let that many children–that many families–fall off this fiscal cliff.

This February, join us in learning about this important issue, and how we all can educate our business leaders and policymakers on what Louisiana and the Northwest Louisiana region needs. To learn more about early child care and education in Louisiana and get involved, please visit https://policyinstitutela.org.

It will take all of us, but we can find solutions to ensure that our children, our families, and our businesses have the tools they need to succeed.

John Dean is a partner of counsel with Heard, McElroy, and Vestal, CPAs, board member of Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, president of the Grayson Foundation, and owner of Air Systems.

Supported By:

  • Pamela Crook is the early childhood accountability specialist of Caddo Parish Public Schools
  • Timothy J. Magner, Ed.D. is the president of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce
  • Darrin Dixon is the vice president of operations for Winnfield Funeral Homes and board chair of United Way of Northwest Louisiana
  • LaToria W. Thomas is the president & CEO of United Way of Northwest Louisiana

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