In 2019, the bipartisan Louisiana Early Childhood Care and Education Commission unanimously approved a bold plan to address the lack of high quality, affordable child care for children in need. The Commission’s plan, Investing in Our Future: LA B to 3, calls for the state to make a substantial investment in high-quality early care and education over the next decade.
WHY WE MUST INVEST IN EARLY CARE AND EDUCATION
Research shows that early experiences affect the development of the brain architecture and provide the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health. Ninety percent of brain development takes place between birth and age four. The brain is like a house and between birth through age four is when the foundation of the brain is built. Like a house, a weak foundation will remain weak no matter what is built on top of it and while it is possible to go back and fix a weak foundation, it is an extremely difficult and expensive undertaking. We also know that children who receive high-quality early care and education experience long-term improved outcomes in education, health, and social behaviors.
However, high-quality child care is neither accessible nor affordable for many families in Louisiana. Currently, the cost of child care exceeds $7,500 a year, amounting to more than an annual tuition at a public college.
This proves very difficult for both working families and businesses and results in Louisiana employers losing $816 million every year from employee absences and turnover due to child care issues. Overall, Louisiana’s economy loses $1.1 billion annually due to child care breakdowns. Yet, Louisiana spends less than 1% of its state general funds on early care and education.
We know that investing in early care and education is one of the best investments that we can make with a return on investment of up to 13%. We know that the lack of affordable, quality early care affects not only the workforce of tomorrow, but also has a substantial impact on the workforce of today, in terms of both worker participation and productivity in Louisiana. Finally, we know that providing children with high-quality early care and education will help to ensure that they are prepared to be successful students and thriving members in their communities. The state of Louisiana needs to continue to invest resources in high-quality early care and education.