Louisiana's Early Childhood Care and Education Commission recently approved a state-wide agenda called "LA B to 3," which will address the lack of high-quality, affordable childcare for Louisiana's children in need.
It will be introduced in the upcoming legislative session. If approved, "LA B to 3" will open funding for all children on the state's current Child Care Assistance Program wait list and will also expand services to 114,000 children ages birth through 3 years old.
Stephanie Hilferty, commission co-chair and State Representative for District 94, commended the state's current pre-Kindergarten program, but said there are other gaps in quality education in the most formative years. "Fewer than 7 percent of in-need children ages birth to 3 can access quality child care and less than 33 percent of 3-year-olds can."
She said the commission came together as a result of last year's legislative session in effort to create a "road map" for the legislative and executive branch, which would quantify the state's early childhood needs and explain how resources would be deployed to meet the need. Funding for early childhood education is crucial, Hilferty said, because 90 percent of the brain is developed before age 5, though public education only begins at age 4.
"They're like sponges. They're picking up all of this information, but our current system is only pre-K through 12."
Comprised of a diverse group of members, including legislators, educators, physicians and business people, the ECE's report highlights how the state's lack of quality early education affects both children and the state's economy.
"This is a workforce crisis," Hilferty said.
"Two-thirds of in need children have both parents or a single parent who is working. The economy has lost $1.1 billion in absences due to child care break down," she said.
"LA B to 3" calls for an initial investment of $85.8 million to create the program, move children off of the CCAP waitlist, fund professional development and create a family resource allocation for all of Louisiana family's regardless of need, Hilferty said. It also calls for similar subsequent funding over the next decade to ensure the state is "moving in the right direction to prepare our youngest learners for a brighter future."