This year’s legislative session starts in April, and CABL will be working with our RESET Louisiana partners PAR and the Committee of 100 on a full legislative agenda. Over the next few weeks, we will highlight some of the issues we will be focusing on, and we begin with early education.
There is good news and bad news surrounding the issue of early care and education. The good news is that awareness around the importance of early education has grown tremendously in recent years. State leaders and other policy makers know how important the early years are in a child’s brain development and that high-quality child care that provides enriching educational experiences leads to positive outcomes for children that last a lifetime.
On top of that, it is heartening that many of our current legislators actually ran on the issue of early education during their 2019 campaigns. That shows how far we have come in understanding what it means to our children, our economy, and our future.
The bad news is that the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the child care sector and revealed how fragile it is despite its importance to the state’s workforce and economic wellbeing. People can’t work if they don’t have access to affordable child care that is right for their children.
Clearly, these are difficult times for families, businesses, and the state. But sometimes it’s when things are challenging that we understand what’s truly important and make those things the priorities they should be. Early care and education is one of them. This year we hope state policy makers will recognize that and do three things:
- Make funding for early education a budget priority and resume the process of appropriating a meaningful amount of State General Fund revenue to expand access to quality early care and education programs. This investment will allow Louisiana to continue to support low-to-moderate income workers by allowing them to place their children in high-quality childcare settings while also supporting the businesses where those workers are employed.
- Make a long-term commitment to early education by prioritizing money from any new revenue sources for the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund. This fund provides matching grants to local entities to support expanded access to early education opportunities.
- Continue to target federal pandemic stimulus funds to the early care and education sector to help Louisiana citizens return to work. The childcare sector is a critical component in the business recovery of the state and requires appropriate access to financial support to meet the needs of a reopening economy.
Doing these things this year won’t solve all of Louisiana’s challenges in early education or make quality child care options available to all of those who need it. That will take time. But we have to get started and there is no better time than now.