Advocate voices key in improving early care and education policies for Louisiana’s Children

Over the past 9 months the Policy Institute of the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families led a Policy Campaign to educate policy makers and stakeholders about early childhood care and education in general, and specifically about the significant lack of funding for all the early care and education programs in Louisiana.

Policymakers were responsive to the Partnership’s efforts, and resulting legislation begins to respond to key points raised, including providing for the development of a funding model for the equitable distribution of public funds for quality early childhood care and education for Louisiana’s children ages birth to five.    

In addition, three early childhood education bills were introduced by the administration.  All three ultimately passed and were signed by the Governor.   These Acts continue the implementation of the Early Childhood Education Act (Act 3) of the 2012 Legislative Session that seeks to bring together into one department all early childhood care and education programs in the state, and align and raise standards across all funding streams and programs by 2015 through new licensing regulations and a new quality rating system. 

More details about improved early care and education policies in Louisiana:

  • Funding model for early care and education (House Concurrent Resolution 61) – Authority to develop a funding model for early care and education was passed as none of Louisiana’s early childhood and care programs is funded at the cost it takes to provide them. The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) is the most substantially underfunded.  Not only is the public allocation per child for CCAP less than half of the allocation per child of the other programs, it is less than one-third of the cost to actually provide the program.  In addition, CCAP has been cut by 58% over five years.  Meanwhile, as result of the Early Childhood Education Act (Act 3) passed in 2012, program standards have been raised, while the allocation per child has not increased. HCR 61 directs the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop a statewide model for the funding of, and the equitable distribution of public funds for, quality early childhood care and education for Louisiana’s children ages birth to five, and to submit a report with recommendations to the legislature no later than sixty days prior to the 2015 Session.
  • Consolidated early care and education governance (Senate Bill 524-Act 868) - Authority related to child care and early learning transferred from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to the Department of Education (DOE).  As a result of amendments added through the work of the Partnership,  Act 868 also promotes transparency and input by requiring DOE to disclose licensing violations, and by establishing the LA Advisory Council on Early Childhood Care and Education.  Now, all matters related to early care and education must be presented to this Council for input before they are considered by the State Board of Education.    
  • The Cecil J. Picard LA 4 Early Childhood Program (House Bill 957 – Act 644)  - The Cecil J. Picard LA 4 Early Childhood Program was reauthorized. The state-funded pre-k program maintains its high-quality, and the State Board of Education has greater flexibility to allocate funding based on demand.
  • Coordinated local enrollment for all publicly funded early care and education programs (Senate Bill 533-Act 717) -  Families that qualify for multiple programs (Head Start, public pre-k, child care assistance, etc.) will soon be able to access a common, centralized process to learn what is available to them, enroll during a common time period, and be referred to other available programs should they be ineligible for, or unable to access, their primary choice.    
  • Improved access to child care assistance for homeless families (House Bill 248-Act 787) –  Homeless families now have up to a 180 day grace period where they can receive a child care subsidy while they seek work, enroll in school, or participate in a transitional living program.

-Melanie Bronfin
Executive Director
Policy Institute for Children

(September 10, 2014)