The New World of Early Learning in Louisiana
There are a large number of different publicly funded early care and education programs in Louisiana for children ages birth through four, some in public schools, some in private elementary schools, some in Head Start centers and some in child care centers. For almost all of them, the eligibility is similar--families must be either in poverty or low-income to qualify. However, there is no one place parents can go and know all the programs they qualify for, the availability of slots, etc. In addition, many of the programs have different enrollment periods and processes, and there is no common method to identify vacancies and waiting lists, and to refer families from one program to another.
To address these concerns, the 2014 Legislature passed Act 717. This Act calls upon communities to develop and implement a coordinated enrollment system through which the public school system, the early learning centers who take publicly funded slots, the nonpublic schools that provide publicly-funded early childhood services, and the Head Start grantees:
Inform families about the availability of publicly funded early childhood care and education programs serving children four years of age or younger;
Coordinate enrollment, eligibility criteria, and waiting lists to ensure that families are referred to other available publicly-funded early childhood programs should they be ineligible for or unable to access their primary choice;
Collect family preferences regarding enrollment choices;
Enroll at-risk children, using available public funds, based upon stated family preferences.
The Act then provides that by June 2015 BESE will establish a process to authorize entities as local early learning enrollment coordinators for those communities that have not done so themselves.
The Louisiana Department of Education has established a timeline for the development of the common enrollment systems:
June 2015: BESE establishes enrollment policies
October 2015: BESE publishes a list of areas without coordination
December 2015: Tentative RFP for first enrollment coordinators
June 2016: Final transition year for communities
June 2017: Communities coordinating or enrollment coordinators in place
Louisiana Department of Education—PowerPoints and templates on Coordinated Enrollment: Scroll down to “Coordinated Enrollment” Linked Here
Louisiana Coordinated Enrollment Self-Assessment Results: Summer 2014 Linked Here