Defying Cuts, Improving Early Childhood Care Standards in Louisiana

As the new Louisiana governor and Legislature sought to address severe budget deficits in a special legislative session in 2016, the long term sustainability of pre-k investments was anything but certain.

In fact, after eight years of cuts to early care and education, many feared Pre-K would be placed on the budgetary chopping block.

Happily, thanks to advocacy organizations such as the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children in New Orleans, $23 million of potential cuts were eliminated from the final budget signed into law in July

Advocates credit the leadership of both Governor John Bel Edwards, who prioritized Pre-K in his recommendations to the Legislature, and the Legislature itself which sustained the funding levels through both a Regular Session and a Second Special Session.  But it was a long 6 months!

Advocates also celebrated the adoption of recommendations to improve the new Accountability System for all publicly funded early care and education programs in Louisiana.  The Policy Institute issued an in-depth report recommending changes. Working with the Department of Education and the State Board of Education, many of our recommendations for changes were adopted including:  Revisions to the system for CLASS observations to ensure that accountability scores are more accurate and reliable; enhancement of targeted supports to more effectively drive quality improvement; and exploration of other key indicators of program quality that could be included in Performance Ratings in the future.

Finally, Louisiana State Board of Education voted to reduce the number of minimum work hours required for Child Care Assistance, from 30 hours (one of the highest in the country) down to 20.  The Board originally considered a proposal to reduce the hours to 25, but as a result of information provided by the Policy Institute, decision makers voted to make the Louisiana standard more in line with standards in other states.

-Melanie Bronfin
Executive Director
Louisiana Policy Institute for Children

(August 24, 2016)