For the first time in a decade, more Louisiana working families will have crucial support in sending their children to a quality early care and education program thanks to a governor and legislative-supported budget that includes an $18.8 million increase for early ed programming and seats. As a result, 1,450 additional children will be able to access the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), and 800 children will be able to access a pre-k program with these new funds.
This was accomplished even though the state budget bill started the legislative process with zero new dollars for early learning for children birth through age four. For a summary of the session, see Louisiana’s budget raises preschool funding for the first time in 10 years.
Increased Advocacy and the Growing Consensus Regarding Investing in Early Ed
Advocates for early care and education, including business, education, and community leaders, were very active during this legislative session. They contacted the governor and legislators, wrote op-eds, testified at budget hearings, and participated in Early Ed Week and Early Ed Day at the Capitol. The governor and legislators responded positively, and the consensus around increased investment in early ed continued to grow throughout the session. Multiple news outlets reported the surprising level of agreement surrounding this issue and how the governor and legislators on both sides of the aisle were working to find new funding (and creative new funding streams) for early ed. To quote one article from the Advocate, “The most oft-heard rallying cry in the Legislature this session is finding money for early childhood education, which has been long approved but never funded.”
During the session, the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children defined the policy issues, educated legislators and the governor, raised awareness, informed the Ready Louisiana Coalition of over 60 organizations statewide, and provided critical data to decision makers. We are very excited by the $18.8 million in new state funding, the increase in advocacy, and the growing consensus surrounding the importance of investing in early care and education, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Although the new appropriations are an important first step, a sizable gap in funding remains. The new money falls far short of the $86 million needed annually as projected by the state ECE Commission report for birth to 3-year-old’s alone. We will continue our efforts to ensure Louisiana families have the resources they need to be able to access high quality early care and education for our youngest citizens.
Libbie Sonnier-Netto and Melanie Bronfin
Executive Director and Policy Director
Louisiana Policy Institute for Children