Statewide Coalition Calls For Legislative Support, Increased Investment In Quality Early Care, Education
NEW ORLEANS – A letter delivered this week to legislators as they prepare for the upcoming session underscores how crucial many business, education, religious and non-profit groups in every corner of Louisiana believe the lack of attention to quality early child care and education is harming economic progress and citizens’ quality of life.
“High quality early care and education will prepare our students for a smart start in life, enable families to be productive in the workforce, and serve as an economic engine for local communities,” reads the statement signed by nearly 30 major statewide organizations, including every United Way in the state. “That is why we support expanding access to high quality early learning across the state of Louisiana by restoring funding.”
Lead organizer Melanie Bronfin, Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, said the state has cut funding for these programs that help working families access affordable, quality early child care for eight years, at a tune of almost 70 percent of previous funding. There is no line-item increase in the proposed budget offered by the Governor, she said.
“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,” said Bronfin. “Yet in Louisiana, we know that more than 40 percent of kindergartners start school behind their peers – and those who start behind are more likely to stay behind. Quality early care and education can close this gap by developing cognitive and character skills when it matters most. It impacts future crime rates, education success rates and our potential workforce. For this reason, we are committed to greater investment in early care and education.”
The letter underscores these points:
• For too many parents, the cost of child care outweighs the benefits of staying in the workforce, and unreliable early care can affect a parent’s ability to work productively or stay in school or training programs in order to lift their families out of poverty.
• For every dollar invested in early care and education centers, $1.78 is generated by the centers for the local economy in terms of purchased services and goods. An investment in early care and education is an investment in Louisiana’s economy.
• The research is clear that investment in early care and education is one of the smartest investments our state can make. High quality early care and education has been shown to result in a seven to 10 percent per year return on investment based on increased school and career achievement, as well as reduced costs in remedial education and health and criminal justice system expenditures.
• A recent poll of Louisiana voters – Democrat, Republican and Independent – showed that more than 80 percent of those polled throughout every region of the state support expanding early education programs for infants and toddlers as well as preschoolers in order to prepare students for success and improve overall graduation rates.
The joint statement reads: “We understand that expanding access to high-quality early learning programs will improve child outcomes, strengthen our families and workforce, and build our economy. For these reasons, we have committed to working together to advocate for additional funding for early care and education programs – to ensure that every child has access to high quality early education programs that meets their needs, prepares our students for success in school, and allows families to continue their training and work.”
The supporting groups are:
Committee of 100
Committee of 100 of Northwest Louisiana
Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce
Jefferson Business Council
Louisiana Early Childhood Business Roundtable
Monroe Chamber of Commerce
Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce
Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance
Louisiana Association of United Ways
Capital Area United Way
United Way of Acadiana
United Way of Central Louisiana
United Way of Northeast Louisiana
United Way of Northwest Louisiana
United Way of Southeast Louisiana
United Way of Southwest Louisiana
United Way of St. John
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Houma/Thibodaux
Bread or Stones
Jesuit Social Research Institute- Loyola University New Orleans
Louisiana Interchurch Conference
National Council of Jewish Women, Greater New Orleans Section
Advocacy Groups and Community Organizations
Citizens for One Greater New Orleans
Education’s Next Horizon
League of Women Voters
Louisiana Budget Project
Louisiana Policy Institute for Children
Stand for Children Louisiana
Bronfin said more organizations are welcome to join the statement.