PAR Report Makes Case for Early Childhood Investments

BATON ROUGE, LA – The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR) has released a report on Early Childhood Education, “Start Strong! The Case for Priority Investment in Louisiana Early Childhood Programs,” that proposes long-term funding for the state’s most vulnerable population.

“No more excuses, Louisiana. The evidence and opportunity are clear. Research has shown that the quality of care and education during children’s early years will influence their life outcomes as well as the condition of the society and workplaces of their generation.”

Dr. Steven Procopio, PAR Policy Director

So far, state funding has been an unreliable hodgepodge of partially used tax credits, marginal revenue from gambling activity and settlements for drug addiction lawsuits, plus the occasional windfall of federal largesse. We evidently are banking our youngest citizens’ well-being – and our state’s future – on the expectation that more people in Louisiana will gamble and use drugs. There is widespread popular support for early childhood education but it clearly is not being made a state priority. If it was it would be funded by the state.

This report by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana provides an overview of the evolution and current structure of an ambitious proposed program for early childhood care and education. It examines the governance model and financial mechanisms already designed for the program and recommends a stronger way forward.

Among the report’s recommendations:

  • Louisiana’s policymakers should prioritize state funding for early child care and education investments. Champions of early childhood education should emphasize big dollar commitments by the state.
  • The Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund should receive enough funding to match any qualified local expenditures on early childhood education. If the state honors its commitment, local entities will be encouraged to put up money for child care in the future, increasing the number of kids served and splitting costs.
  • The state should use the temporary federal funding to expand and enhance child care in the state. The state must make a commitment to sustain those dollars that would be recurring expenses once the federal money runs out. The federal money should not be an excuse to avoid investing state money in child care now.
  • Improve early childhood interagency governance. All state-level agencies providing child care, education and healthcare to children in need from birth to age 5 should identify barriers and develop and implement strategies to create more efficiency, quality and equity in programs and services, and to include the integration and coordination of the health component. Where necessary the Legislature should remove legal barriers to data sharing while protecting privacy.
  • BESE and the Department of Education need to strengthen the department’s capacity to address the needs of rural and disadvantaged regions as they seek to expand the Ready Start Networks. Many rural and disadvantaged regions will have unique challenges – such as access, transportation, or non-traditional working hours. BESE and the education department will need to identify and incentivize the appropriate capacity building and development strategies for these regions of the state.

The report contains supplemental sections covering national and state studies and resources supporting good governance practices. Other sections catalog funding resources.

A reader of this report will be well versed with objective information and ideas to discuss this issue constructively and help move the state and its children forward.


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