Louisiana Leaders Achieve Legislative Wins Despite Disappointing Budget Cuts
Louisiana legislators renewed and grew their unique package of School Readiness Tax Credits, but couldn’t protect early care and education appropriations from across-the-board cuts.
First, the good news:
School Readiness Tax Credits Not Only Protected but Funding Increased - Louisiana's unique and effective School Readiness Tax Credits (SRTC) for parents, teachers, child care providers and Resource and Referral Agencies receive national acclaim and have been extremely effective in supporting access to high quality child care in Louisiana. Senator Jean-Paul (JP) Morrell championed efforts to successfully protect the SRTCs and to secure an additional $5 million for them even in a very tough fiscal climate. SR 209 (Morrell).
Multiple Legislators Championed Early Childhood Legislation- Representatives Patricia Smith, Walt Leger III, Steve Carter and Cameron Henry each championed early childhood legislation in the House, and Senators Beth Mizell and Regina Barrow played critical roles in the Senate.
- HB 486 (Johnson): Establishes an administrative process for the appeal of a justified determination of child abuse or neglect for an individual whose name is placed on the state central registry for child abuse or neglect. The bill also provides that the Department of Children and Family Services can charge a fee up to $25 for state central registry checks.
- HB 557 (Seabaugh): Sets up the state infrastructure and requirements for Louisiana to comply with federal law that by fall 2018 owners, employees, etc. in child care centers, registered family child care providers and in-home providers must pass more in-depth and extensive background checks. It also provides for the Department of Education to be able to charge a fee up to $15 to process these background checks.
- HB 584 (Leger): Creates the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund and provides for a 1:2 state match for funding by local entities for certain early childhood education programs. Although no funding was appropriated for this new fund, the bill does provide a structure that hopefully will be funded in future years.
- SB 66 (Barrow): Enacts provisions relative to the Children's Cabinet, including the addition of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children to the Children's Cabinet Advisory Board.
Now, the bad news. The Regular Session closed without the Legislature passing the state operating and construction budgets, so the House and Senate returned for a Special Session that resulted in several setbacks:
- A two percent cut for the state's largest Pre-K Program, LA 4, which currently serves 16,283 four-year-old children, decreasing its funding from $75.5 million to $74 million.
- A three percent cut for the Nonpublic School Pre-K Program – NSECD (the Nonpublic School Early Childhood Development Program for four-year-olds), which currently serves 1,568 children - from $6.6 million to $6.4 million.
- In addition, and most disappointing, the state budget included no restoration of funding for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), which has been cut by over $65 million in the last 8 years, an almost 70 percent reduction.
Despite some wonderful progress, we still have a way to go to raise our early childhood policies to national standards. The Louisiana Policy Institute for Children continues to support policy changes that prioritize young children and are informed by research, best practices and the experiences of other states that are so critical for the children and families in Louisiana.
- Melanie Bronfin
Louisiana Policy Institute for Children
(July 11, 2017)