The Louisiana Early Childhood Care and Education Commission recently called for an initial state investment of $85.8 million and an increase of nearly that amount annually over the next decade to expand access to affordable, high-quality early care and learning for thousands of working families in need, particularly those with children below age 3.
“The state made an initial appropriation during the 2019 legislative session of almost $20 million to increase access to quality seats, including both pre-K seats for 4-year-olds, as well as a small number of birth to 3-year-old seats,” said Stephanie Hilferty (R-Metairie), co-chair of the commission who sponsored legislation to form the group. “While that investment is a good start, Louisiana must do more. We need to make a strong commitment in 2020.”
The addendum, which comes a year after the original report was unanimously adopted and endorsed, also calls for community-led fundraising efforts to narrow the gap in services among 4-year-old children in-need and those who are younger. Currently, 94 percent of 4-year-old children in need have access to quality early learning, yet fewer than 7 percent of in-need children birth to age 2 and fewer than 33 percent of in-need 3-year-old children do. This lack of affordable access adversely affects the state’s workforce, economy and communities.
“With this bold vision, we can position Louisiana to shift its economic reality,” said Assistant State Superintendent of Education Jessica Baghian. “Children need quality early learning to prepare them for success in school and beyond. Their families need the support to productively participate in the state’s workforce. The investment can improve the lived experience of our citizens and put Louisiana on track to attract new industries.”