A state board of education commission is asking the Louisiana state legislature to expand access to early childhood education to more than 100,000 children in need at a cost of more than $800 million over 10 years.
The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) commission on early childhood education says there is a huge need when it comes to publicly funded education and care for children under age three. Since 2008, the Louisiana legislature has drastically cut funding, leaving the program with only enough money for 22,000 children. In a report, the commission says there are 170,000 children, age birth to 3, from low-income families who are in need of access.
The commission voted Tuesday to recommend expanding childcare access to more than 110,000 children from low-income families - those earning 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $49,000 for a family of four. Parents would have to be working or in school to be eligible.
The commission says research shows quality early childhood education can have lifelong positive impacts, and will allow parents to work.
"I am a fiscal conservative, but I know we're never going to get the workforce that we need, the positive outcomes - in life quality, family rearing, responsible citizens - that we need in Louisisana to sustain itself and to sustain the economy if we don't invest in preparing children [for] when they start kindergarten," state senator and commission member Beth Mizell said.
The comission notes that 40 percent of Louisiana students are already behind academically when they enter kindergarten at age 5.
The plan calls for a first-year investment of $85.8 million. That amount would grow larger each year, funding more and more seats. By year 10, the program would fund 110,000 seats at a total cost of $839 million.
The proposal goes to the state legislature and Governor John Bel Edwards for consideration. Lawmakers go back into session in April to put together a budget.