Louisiana far ahead of others in documenting the sad truth: Childcare unaffordable for most working parents
The national Child Care Aware organization released its annual review of child care costs across the country and confirmed what families in Louisiana already knew: The costs of early care for children aged 0 to 4 years can exceed 27 percent of household incomes for working, single parent families and cost $9000 a year per child for any household.
In Louisiana, single parents pay 37.9 percent of their income for infant center care while married parents of two children living at the poverty line pay 47.4 percent of their household income for center-based child care. The cost of infant care in Louisiana is nearly the same as the annual cost of college tuition at a four-year college, coming in at $7540 per year, according to Child Care Aware.
Melanie Bronfin, Director, Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, is praised in the report for the research her organization has done documenting the scope and cost of the problem in the State of Louisiana…research now being replicated in other states.
The national organization highlights “the groundbreaking report” written by LPIC called Losing Ground: How Child Care Impacts Louisiana’s Workforce Productivity and the State Economy that documented the enormous impact of child care issues on Louisiana’s workforce, businesses and the economy. “They found that child care issues resulted in major economic costs to employers and a large, negative economic impact on the state,” Child Care Aware confirmed, noting how other states such as Maryland are now replicating the Louisiana study.
The findings of the Losing Ground report helped propel the Legislature to create an Early Child Care and Education Commission now studying how to pilot cost-effective, quality programs in Louisiana. A recent State Auditor’s report found the state’s network of existing does not match best practices in the industry, such as meeting national child-teacher ratios, and is woefully under-evaluated.
“There are no easy fixes to the scope of the problem in our state,” said Ms. Bronfin. “In the end, it is about how much we are willing to invest in the development of our youngest citizens.” LPIC has routinely drawn attention to the fact that the state invests less than one-half of one percent of our state general funds in early care and education.
“Ironically, in the national report, while it may look like a child-care program in Louisiana is more affordable than one in Massachusetts, our studies, the state Department of Education and the Staten Auditor have all underscored how that has compromised the quality of care, especially since the average child care worker is paid half of the salary of a Kindergarten teacher and for the first time in 2019 will be required to even have a high school degree,” said Ms. Bronfin.
With the help of LPIC, the State of Louisiana has created School Readiness Tax Credits that not only give eligible families refundable credits, but also provide incentives for childcare providers to improve employee training and center resources. Additionally, the State Department of Education has created a Unified Rating System based on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) to help parents gain information about a center’s quality and give providers benchmarks for improvement.
LPIC has studies two-years’ worth of data gained by CLASS and urged the state to lower teacher-child ratios, expand evidence-based coaching/professional development/teacher education programs, and expand access to infant classrooms, among other recommendations.
“The great news for our focus on evidence-based documentation of real need has encouraged national and state actors to follow our lead and replicate our data in their communities,” said Ms. Bronfin. “The sad news is the need is greater than any current source of funds can address, public or private. Yet, this is where learning begins and where we must invest if we are to improve educational outcomes.”
CLASS MATTERS REPORT (2018) http://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/43cca3_05d34c73bcd344808b67c20bb58b5066.pdf
LOSING GROUND REPORT (2017) http://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/43cca3_5dd38dfb258f476b81b2432d9ee6c356.pdf
Child Care Aware: Louisiana
State Auditor’s report on ECCE: