Williamson's Notes: Early Education Week - Making the difficult decisions easy

This week is Early Ed Week in Louisiana, a time to highlight the importance of improving access to affordable, high-quality early care and education (ECE) for all Louisiana families. On Thursday, United Way of Southeast Louisiana will join with the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, and Jefferson Business Alliance to speak up for increased funding for early care and education in our region. 

Child care is the most expensive category in the ALICE Report's household survival budget for Louisiana, yet less than 15 percent of families with children under age four can access public ECE funding. As it stands, the local cost of ECE is on par with the cost of college tuition, leaving many working families to make difficult decisions. 

According to Losing Ground, a study on the impacts of child care on Louisiana’s Workforce, 14 percent of Louisiana parents with young children turned down a promotion due to child care issues, 16 percent quit their jobs, and 20 percent went from full to part-time for the same reason. While these decisions seem to be distinctly personal, they create profound, lasting repercussions for our community and economy. The lack of access to early care and education results in an $816 million annual loss for Louisiana employers and a $1.1 billion loss for the state’s economy.

Those staggering figures have caught the attention of many decision-makers across Louisiana, but the state has taken little action to remedy the situation. Louisiana currently spends less than one-half of 1 percent of its state general fund on early care and education, which leaves around 100,000 children without access to publicly funded ECE seats in waiting, falling further and further behind their more affluent peers.  

This week, we’re asking our elected officials and business leaders to support the creation of a reliable funding mechanism to help Louisiana’s working families afford quality early care and education for their children. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to do just that as the potential for new revenue streams grows with the onset of the 2019 legislative session.  

Louisiana’s economy needs Louisiana workers, and our working families need access to high-quality learning opportunities. Let’s take the difficult decisions off the table and make the easy choice – fully fund the need for publicly funded early care and education seats in Louisiana. It’s the best path forward for our families, our economy, and our beloved state. 

Michael Williamson

President & CEO

United Way of Southeast Louisiana