Bill aims to create quality childcare for young kids with new commission

13

Melanie Bronfin, Director Early Childhood Care and Education Commission

The State of Louisiana took a step forward in improving its support of working parents who need quality child care for their young children when Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law Representative Stephanie Hilferty’s House Bill 676, which creates the Early Childhood Care and Education Commission, said Director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children Melanie Bronfin. The bill was supported by a statewide coalition of 50 business, education and civic groups including the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the Committee of 100, Chambers of Commerce, and the United Way, among others. The Commission will be comprised of 26 early education stakeholders, and tasks them with gathering data, considering research and determining a sustainable infrastructure to ensure access to quality ECE programs across the state.

Funding for the Child Care Assistance Program, which provides subsidies for working families to access such care, has been drastically cut since 2009, reducing the number of children served in Louisiana from almost 40,000 to only 15,000 today.

However, the total number of children in this age group eligible for these services and needing access to such care is 145,000, according to LPIC. “Almost half of households in Louisiana fall below an income threshold that allows for the cost of quality early care and education,” said Michael Williamson, United Way of Southeast Louisiana President and CEO. “The research is clear. The state is suffering. Parents and children are suffering. And we cannot continue to afford to allow families and business to face the consequences of inadequate high-quality care and education options.” “There was nearly unanimous, bipartisan support for Hilferty’s bill, which calls for the Commission to produce a report before the 2019 Legislative Session summarizing its findings and recommendations and, prior to the 2020 session, report upon the implementation of its recommendations.

“We can’t allow our state’s short-term budget issues to keep us from finding long-term solutions to address inequity and propel our next generation to educational and economic success,” said Ms. Bronfin who said she was proud to witness Governor Edwards sign Rep. Hilferty’s HB 676. “This puts a spotlight on a long under addressed issue in our state with a program that will hopefully produce a sound framework for a world-class early care and education system across Louisiana.” HB 676 also allows the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to increase access to and improve the quality of ECE programs by establishing pilot programs which study best practices to increase access to these needed programs, and update the Commission on its findings. When speaking on behalf of her bill, Rep, Hilferty said HB 676 seeks to create a vision and plan for the future of early care and education in Louisiana since all parents of infants need stronger and more accessible quality public education experiences.

“The reality is that 90 percent of brain development takes place between birth and age 4. The more we can do for those amazing young minds the better the outcomes will be for the future of Louisiana,” she stated before the House during the Regular Session.