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Coalition lobbies for early childhood education in Baton Rouge

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Posted at 5:01 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 18:01:11-04

Today was Early Ed Day at the Louisiana State Capitol.

The Ready Louisiana Coalition hosts the event, an advocacy day for businesses, chambers of commerce, advocacy groups, early care and education professionals, and parents to educate policymakers about the critical need for increased access to high-quality early care and education, and to share opportunities to increase state investment in the sector during the 2021 legislative session.

Throughout the day, Ready Louisiana Coalition leaders and members from around the state met with legislators both virtually and in person to advocate for:

  • Expanded access to quality early care and education programs for Child Care Assistance Program-eligible families;
  • A robust source of ongoing funding to the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund (Fund) by committing all revenues from sports betting; and
  • Continued use of federal stimulus funds to stabilize the early care and education sector, which is critical to the state economy but has lost hundreds of millions of dollars since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund offers local entities a dollar-for-dollar state match to fund early care and education programs, but to date the revenue sources for the Fund have not resulted in a meaningful amount.

“Now more than ever, it is imperative that we secure a robust and ongoing source of state funding for Louisiana’s early care and education sector,” said Dr. Libbie Sonnier, executive director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children. “There is a perception that early care and education has plenty of money due to federal stimulus packages, but the fact is that the majority of those one-time funds are being used to stabilize the child care industry. If Louisiana commits future sports betting revenue to early care and education, we can offset the fiscal cliff in three years, allowing the state to efficiently draw down federal funds to increase access and help families now.”

Adjusted to a semi-virtual format due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the annual luncheon program featured remarks from Governor John Bel Edwards and State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley, as well business and nonprofit leaders from around the state, child care providers and advocates, all highlighting the critical and ongoing need to increase funding and improve access to quality early care and education programs for all children birth through age four across the state.

“In Louisiana, early childhood education costs nearly as much as public college tuition and is the biggest budget expense for most families with young children, which hinders access and inflicts hardships on young children and their caretakers,” said Sarah Berthelot, president and CEO of Louisiana Association of United Ways. “As policymakers discuss the allocation of future sports betting revenues, the Ready Louisiana Coalition urges them to make choices that will better impact many generations of Louisianans by creating a robust funding stream for the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund.”

Directing the revenue from sports betting into the Fund will not only provide our state with an ongoing source of revenue to expand access to quality early care and education, but also incentivize local entities to come to the table because of the dollar-for-dollar match on local investments, the group says.

“Local communities throughout the state are already engaging in efforts to expand access to early care and education. Our legislators must commit all future revenues from sports betting to the Fund so the state can deliver on that promised match,” said Charmaine Caccioppi, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana. “By committing these future sports betting revenues to the Fund, the legislature could help to transform early care and education in Louisiana in just a few short years — improving our economy and benefitting our children immeasurably during these critical developmental years, setting them up for success in school and in life.”

You can watch the program yourself here.