STATE SCHOOL READINESS TAX CREDIT PROGRAMS GAIN $5 MILLION ADDITIONAL DOLLARS, BUT EARLY CHILD CARE AND EDUCATION ADVOCATES LEAVE SESSION WITH LOTS LEFT TO DO NEXT YEAR
Despite a Legislation Session filled with fiscal struggles, the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children (LPIC) said there were victories in early child care and education policies for advocates to celebrate, specifically a 30 percent increase in School Readiness Tax Credits funding advanced by Senator J.P. Morrell, co-authored by State Representative Patricia Smith, and supported by Representative Cameron Henry.
The School Readiness Tax Credit Programs, a model legislative initiative that has been effective in improving the quality of child care in Louisiana helped more than 13,000 families last year fund early child care for their child aged 0 to 4. The increase in available credits will help meet the unmet need in the state, which exceeds an additional 20,000 children, according to the LPIC.
“I am thrilled,” said LPIC Director Melanie Bronfin. “Thanks to SR 209 (Morrell)/HR 217(Smith), there is a $5 million increase in the School Readiness Tax Credits funding.”
Despite the tax credit victory, Ms. Bronfin said there is much more work to be done in restoring the more than $65 million eliminated over the past eight years by the State of Louisiana from the Child Care Assistance Program, which reduces the cost of quality child care programs for children of working parents. Two-thirds of all children in the state between the ages of 0-5 years have both parents in the workforce, and childcare costs are nearly as much as public college tuition, said Ms. Bronfin.
“Due to these substantial budget cuts and increased parental demand, the Department of Education is having to close access to the CCAP program for new children starting July 1, 2017, which is distressing in light of the results we found in our Losing Ground study with LSU that shows working parents are losing their jobs, quitting, turning down promotions and missing work due to a lack of affordable child care in our state,” said Ms. Bronfin. The 2017 report, which included Entergy and Loyola University as research partners, also documented that employee absences and turnover costs due to child care issues cost Louisiana employers nearly $1 billion a year.
Ms. Bronfin said that the advocacy of over 30 statewide business, education and non-profit partners, including the visible support from 17 top crime fighters in Louisiana and eight retired Generals and Admirals, helped underscore the continual need for the Governor and Legislature to return this issue to a funding priority. LPIC and its supporters underscore studies which link quality childcare and education for ages 0-four years with life-long success in learning, as well as a key link to preventing criminal behaviors.
Representative Walt Leger III successfully passed a bill this Session creating a Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund to provide a 1:2 match for funding by local entities for certain early childhood education programs (HR 584). Though no funding was allocated for the program, it does provide a structure for addressing the state’s long-standing need.
“The good news is we can show that even a little investment in supports for working families, like additional funding for the Louisiana School Readiness Tax Credits, goes a long way. The bad news is current actions remain a drop in an ocean of need in Louisiana,” Ms. Bronfin said.
For the full 2017 Legislative Report for LPIC, click HERE. For more information on LPIC, go to policyinstitutela.org or call (504) 417-3735.