In Support of Our Children, Parents and Local Economy

Ready Louisiana and Jefferson Chamber team up in making children a priority during legislative session

 

In the past seven years, state funding for Louisiana child care programs has been cut by 70 percent. The direct impact: Local child care tuition has increased to between $8,000 and $12,000 a year,  25,000 children have been dropped from public child care assistance and an aggregate impact of $1.1 billion is neglected from the state economy annually.
“Since 2009, we’ve gone from supporting 40,000 children in early care programs to just 15,000 today,” said the Executive Director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children and one of the main organizers of Ready Louisiana, Melanie Bronfin. “So, we’re determined to push our state and local legislature to create policies that better support our child care programs.”
Ready Louisiana is a statewide, non-partisan, non-profit coalition made up of 45 business and community organizations, including the Jefferson Chamber and United Way, that collects data, influences policy makers and advocates for bills in legislature that will benefit the accessibility and quality of child care. 
They have seen the incredible power of data research in the last year after releasing a nationally cited report titled Losing Ground. The report, which was quoted in Forbes and the Wall Street Journal,  highlighted a swell of daunting statistics that showed, among other things, that Louisiana is spending half of 1 percent of its general funds on early care and education, the effect being that only 15 percent of eligible children have access to publicly funded early care programs. 
Contrastingly, 75 percent of all the children in this age group have both of their parents, or their single parent, in the workforce. This fact, especially when you tack on the exorbitant costs of early child care, amounts to a heavy toll on our current and future workforce. 
“Parents are missing time, going from full-time to part-time and refusing promotions so that they can care for their children,” said Bronfin. “This has amounted to a loss of $84 million in Louisiana’s tax revenue and over $1.1 billion neglected from our state economy.”
All of these factors  have a direct impact on children. “We’ve come to a scientific understanding as a country that 90 percent of brain development occurs within the first four years of our lives,” said Bronfin, “and a child who starts kindergarten educationally behind his peers will statistically stay behind. In Louisiana, that’s 43 percent of children.”
Though this data seems bleak, Jefferson Chamber and Ready Louisiana have been working hard in non-partisan efforts to support intuitive bills and garnish community support around child care reform.
This year, the Jefferson Chamber is using its strengths to spearhead the Ready Louisiana movement by educating the importance of passing Legislation including House Bill 676 (which passed in late May 2018).  
Ready Louisiana is an open coalition accepting donations and support from businesses and individuals alike.  To learn more about various ways to get involved, visit readylouisiana.org.  •

 

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VICTORIOUS LEGISLATION

House Bill 676 by Rep. Stephanie Hilferty was signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards on May 31, 2018, as Act #636.
The Act creates a Commission to make recommendations for a Master Plan for Early Care and Education in Louisiana prior to the 2019 Legislative Session. The Commission will consist of 26 early education specialists responsible for gathering data, considering research, and determining a foundational infrastructure to ensure access to early childhood education programs in Louisiana. The Commission will produce a report and make recommendations to the legislature in the 2019 Legislative Session. Prior to the 2020 Legislative Session, the Commission will give an account of the status of the implementation of its recommendations.
The Bill also permits the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to broaden access and increase the quality of early childhood education programs. The Action Plan includes establishing pilot programs that study best practices in early childhood education to broaden access to those who are the most in need.

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