More than 60 business, early education and United Way organizations and providers will send advocates to Baton Rouge on Tuesday, May 21, to ask the governor and legislators to budget sustainable state funding for improved access to quality early child care and education options for working parents
BATON ROUGE (MAY 21, 2019) Once again, a coalition of business, education and civic groups, and statewide United Ways are meeting with Governor John Bel Edwards and legislators about increased and sustainable investments in high-quality early education and care (ECE) in Louisiana, but this year, they say they want action.
They are armed with the legislature’s own Early Childhood Care and Education Committee’s report, LA B to 3,which calls for an $86 million investment this year in the state’s ECE program for children under age four. So far, a line item for just under $5 millionis the best that has been offered.
“Just over 10 years ago, the state-funded program for young children of working parents served almost 40,000 children, and today we are serving only 15,000,” said Melanie Bronfin, Director, Louisiana Policy Institute for Children. “Just to meet the current waiting list of 5,500 children requires an additional $31 million now, and even that won’t address all the needs of working parents who are desperate for access to affordable, quality child care and education centers.”
The coalition will meet with the governor during a luncheon at the Capitol on May 21, and then visit their individual legislators. They are armed with the following facts and resources:
- A March 2019 pollwhich shows 86% of likely Louisiana voters believe ECE is an important issue and 62% support increasing state funding for programs that help working families;
- The 2019 ALICE report,by the Louisiana Association of United Ways, which shows how the cost for caring for one infant and one preschooler in the average Louisiana household increased by 35% in six years;
- A comprehensive review by the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children about how other states are meeting their ECE funding needs;
- Fact sheetsabout the impact of childcare costs on workers and employers, as well as lost revenue for the state from absentee parents; and
- A litany of news articles and editorialsin which elected officials pledge their support for ECE funding this year.
In Louisiana, more than 40% of kindergartners start school behind their peers — and those who start behind are more likely to stay behind. However, quality ECE can close this gap by developing cognitive and character skills when it matters most. Ninety percent of brain development takes place between birth and age four, wiring a child’s brain for future success or failure in school, work and life.
The state’s lack of access to quality, affordable ECE is responsible for significant economic costs to Louisiana employers and working households, including:
- $1.1 billion – annual loss for Louisiana’s economy related to child care issues;
- $816 million – annual cost to Louisiana employers for employee absences and turnover due to child care issues; and
$84 million – annual loss in Louisiana tax revenue due to lost workplace productivity.
“Investing in early care and education is an investment in Louisiana’s economy,” said Committee of 100 Chief Executive Officer Michael Olivier. “By investing in early care and education, we are ensuring every child has access to high-quality education programs, preparing them for success in school. At the same time, this investment allows working parents the ability to remaining in the workforce and the children are better prepared to enter the workforce.”
“Almost half of households in Louisiana fall below an income threshold that allows for the cost of quality ECE,” said Michael Williamson, United Way of Southeast Louisiana President and CEO. “The research is clear. The state is suffering. Parents and children are suffering. And we cannot continue to afford to allow families and business to face the consequences of inadequate high-quality care and education options,” added Sarah Berthelot, President and CEO, Louisiana Association of United Ways.
“Aside from the known academic benefits to our children, establishing and maintaining robust early childhood education is a critical workforce issue in Louisiana,” said Dr. Timothy Magner, President of the Greater Shreveport Chamber. “For too many working parents in Louisiana, child care presents a barrier to meaningful employment.”
“This is a bi-partisan issue,” said Tony Ligi, Executive Director of Jefferson Business Council, “There has been enormous support shown by the general public to expand access for quality early care and education in order to prepare our youngest citizens for success. This investment is a sound fiscal strategy that also allows parents to work and support their families.”
“If Louisiana is serious about addressing its criminal justice issues and raising public school achievement — all proven results for children attending high quality care — as well as giving its businesses a greater economic advantage to their out-of-state competitors, the return on investment in quality child care funding becomes very clear,” said George Swift, President/CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance.
For more information on Ready Louisiana, contact Christy Marino with the Jefferson Chamber at Christy@jeffersonchamber.org or Melanie Bronfin with the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children at firstname.lastname@example.org.