June 13, 2022
Note: Know someone who needs help paying for child care while working or attending school or job training? Help is available from the Louisiana Child Care Assistance Program. Recent program changes have expanded the program to include more families. To learn if you qualify and apply, visit ccapla.doe.louisiana.gov or call 1.877.453.2721.
We could all use a little good news. And looking at how Louisiana invested in young children and their families this year, there’s an inspiring amount of progress to report.
Advocates like United Way of Southeast Louisiana have worked for years to bring early care and education needs into the public eye and build broad bipartisan support for expanded access to child care.
The facts are:
Quality early learning experiences are crucial to a child’s brain development and lay the foundation for future success in school and life.
The high cost of quality child care – averaging $8,500 a year in Louisiana - puts it out of reach for many families. For perspective, over half of households in Southeast Louisiana were struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic.
In Louisiana, with 60% of kindergarten students enrolling unprepared, 47% of parents making impossible choices to survive, and the economy losing over a billion dollars annually to child care breakdowns, it’s clear we need to make quality child care accessible to all families.
Louisiana Legislature Invests $84 Million in Early Care and Education in State Budget
Thanks to the dedicated advocacy of the Ready Louisiana Coalition (which UWSELA is proud to help lead) and others, state legislators appropriated a total of $84 million for early care and education programs during the 2022 regular legislative session.
The appropriation includes $25 million to expand a program providing financial assistance for quality child care to low-income families and $18 million to improve reimbursement rates for programs serving four-year-olds.
The most significant portion of the funding - $40 million – will go to the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund. This fund is an important tool that incentivizes local investment in early care and education by offering a dollar-for-dollar match.
New Orleans is one local government leading the charge to make significant investments to expand access to early care and education for its residents utilizing this state match.
New Orleans Voters Approve 20-Year Millage to Fund Early Childhood Education
In April, New Orleans voters approved a 20-year property tax to expand access to quality early care and education in the city. It’s impossible to overstate the historic nature of this long-term investment in New Orleans children and families.
United Way of Southeast Louisiana was proud to support the Yes for NOLA Kids campaign in its efforts to pass this millage, and because of the successful vote, up to 2,000 low-income children will receive free, quality early childhood education through the City Seats program.
The increased access is incredible on its own, but the program goes further to build up the entire early learning ecosystem. Children, their families, and child care providers participating in City Seats benefit from wrap-around supports like professional development for teachers, coordination of additional social services, parent engagement, and ongoing program evaluation for quality and impact.
Funding from the millage will also support capacity-building efforts, including center expansion and start-up grants, a necessity as many centers already have long waiting lists.
How Child Care Can Change a Family’s Trajectory
“Each day, I’m able to show up for work without having to worry about whether or not my children are ok or if their child care arrangements will fall through, on top of all the other things I have to worry about as a parent.”
This reflection shared by parent Celeste Carter during Early Ed Day at the Capitol this year highlights how quality early childhood education supports a family’s stability and future.
For parents working in low-wage, hourly jobs, missing a day of work because of child care breakdowns places major stress on an already thin budget. When families can afford quality early care and education, they can fully participate in the workforce or attend school and build financial security for their families.
While the state and local progress we’ve made this year is promising, there’s a long way to go before every child and family in need can receive quality early childhood education.
Until that day, expanding access to early care and education will remain a key strategy in United Way SELA’s work to end poverty and ensure everyone in our community is healthy, educated, and financially stable.
Executive Vice President & COO
United Way of Southeast Louisiana
P.S. A tremendous thank you to the army of dedicated organizations, advocates, parents, child care providers, and legislators who made these wins possible. View the Ready Louisiana Coalition’s 2022 Legislative Champions here.