Early Care and Education in Louisiana 2019

Section I: The State of the State: Act 3’s Major Reforms to Louisiana’s Early Care and Education System

 

The Early Childhood Education Act (Act 3) of 2012 mandated sweeping reforms to early care and education in Louisiana with the goal of improving school readiness among Louisiana’s children.  Act 3 mandated the formation of one early childhood education system uniting all publicly funded early care and education programs for children birth through age four, including all pre-k programs, Head Start and Early Head Start programs, and child care centers, under the direction of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the Department of Education. Prior to Act 3, Louisiana resembled most states in that these programs were located across many departments, and though they often served the same children, had different quality standards, accountability systems, eligibility requirements and funding levels. These inconsistencies resulted mainly due to the fact that the programs were (and continue to be) funded through a patchwork of federal and state funding streams, each with its own requirements. The Act mandated the development of a definition of kindergarten readiness and a new uniform accountability system that would be mandatory for all programs receiving state and/or federal funds (1), and later legislation mandated a common enrollment system for all publicly funded early care and education programs. (2)  

 

To the great credit of BESE, the Louisiana Department of Education, and especially the programs themselves, major progress has been made in the implementation of the reforms of Act 3, and the transformation of the early care and education system in Louisiana. This has included the complete transition of all early care and education programs to the Department of Education under the supervision of BESE, the development and adoption of a state level definition of kindergarten readiness (3); Louisiana’s Birth to Five Early Learning and Development Standards (4); a new, now fully implemented, unified accountability system based on the CLASS™ assessment; a Performance Profile for each publicly funded early care and education site statewide (5); a new professional development system in Louisiana for child care teachers, which has included the creation of an Early Childhood Ancillary Teaching Certification, the development of training programs, and the training of over a thousand teachers to achieve this certification (6); refashioning Louisiana’s nationally recognized School Readiness Tax Credits to support the new certification and new accountability system (7); tiering of early childhood curriculum and a curriculum initiative to ensure programs have access to the quality options (8); and the continued development of a common enrollment system for all publicly funded early care and education programs statewide for children birth through age 4 (9), including a website, that maps every publicly funded program in the state and provides information on program quality. (10) Already, the quality of programs is improving, with 8% more sites receiving a quality rating (proficient or above) than last year, and the average score on each dimension and domain of the CLASS assessment improving as well. (11)


Many of these accomplishments have positioned our state to be unique in the country, and have received national recognition. Louisiana was ranked 8th among the 50 states for the effectiveness and efficiency of our new early care and education accountability system(12) In addition, our new professional development system and the School Finder Website have been featured in national publications. (13)

 

 
Section II:  The State of the State: Remaining Challenges-Severe Lack of Access to Quality Early Care and Education for Children Under Age 4

Another one of Louisiana’s successes is its pre-k programs for 4-year-olds. Louisiana has a number of quality programs, including the Cecil J. Picard LA 4 Early Childhood Program, the 8(g) Student Enhancement Block Grant Program, and the Nonpublic School Early Childhood Development Program.  Combined with the federally funded Head Start 4-year-old program and the Title I funding used by school districts for pre-k, over 90% of at-risk 4-year-olds in Louisiana can access a free 4-year-old pre-K slot (14), and 86% of these children are in a program rated to be a quality program. (15)   

 

By contrast, for children under age 4, quality early care and education is severely underfunded and out of reach for most low-income, working families. In fact, as quality has gone up under the reforms of Act 3 so has costs, so that child care centers cost almost as much as a public college tuition (16), and the tuition has risen by 12% over three years. (17)

 

The only publicly funded early care and education programs in Louisiana for children under age 4 are Head Start (HS), which serves 3 and 4-year-olds, Early Head Start (EHS), which serves infants through 2-year-olds, and the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). HS and EHS are entirely federally funded through grants to local public and private entities, such as school systems, Total Community Action agencies, parish governments and nonprofits.  However, the total number of HS/EHS slots available in Louisiana serves only a small percentage of the eligible population. (18)  

 

The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) is the only state administered early care and education program for children under age 4. To qualify, parents must be working, in school or in job training, and low-income. The funding is in the form of a subsidy paid to the child care center that the parent choses.  However, Louisiana rates for these subsidies are extremely low, below what 25% (19) of the centers actually charge and less than half the amount funded per child by HS/EHS. (20) Parents have to pay out-of-pocket to the center the difference between the subsidy and what the center actually charges for tuition.   

 

Even with HS, EHS and the CCAP programs, less than 15% of low-income children under age four have access to ANY publicly funded program, including only 34% of three year olds, 11% of two year olds, 8% of one year olds, and 4% of infants. (21) This is in spite of the fact that 66% of children birth through age five in Louisiana have both parents – or their single parent – in the workforce. (22) Funding for the only state administered early care and education program for children under age 4, CCAP, has been substantially cut in the last ten years. The number of children served has gone from almost 40,000 to under 17,000 today, including the new funds restored to CCAP in 2019.  In addition, there is a waiting list for CCAP of over 3000 children. (23) Numerous reports continue to show that quality child care is unaffordable for a substantial number of working parents in Louisiana. (24) In addition, given the high cost of quality and the lack of public investment, it is not surprising that there is higher proportion of these publicly funded slots that are rated below proficient, that is, not at the minimum quality level established by the state. 

 

One of the great challenges with early care and education for children under age 4 is that the delivery system is very different from the general public school system, with most of the slots for these children being paid for by private tuition. Furthermore, for centers to charge a tuition that parents can even stretch to afford, it rarely covers the cost of quality, especially for the younger children.  The median salary for a teacher in a child care center in Louisiana is $8.95 an hour with few benefits, about half that of a kindergarten teacher. (25) Furthermore, the ratio for young children of teacher to child are much lower than in elementary classes. For infants, for example, licensing requires no more than five infants to one adult, making infant rooms extremely difficult to fund, and, hence, there are very few across the state.  Cost models show that centers rarely charge families the actual cost for their younger children, using the 3 and 4 year old tuition to subsidize the infants through 2 year olds. (26) Yet, most 4 year olds now attend free public pre-k in schools or Head Start programs. 

 

It is helpful to compare the average amount paid per child to elementary schools, which receive over $10,000 a year per child, to the current statewide market rate tuition of just over $7500 per child (with the CCAP subsidy only paying around $5700 a year per child). Elementary school is only for 6 hours a day/10 months a year with class ratios more in the realm of 1:30.  Yet, child care is generally for 10 hours a day, 12 months a year. Without an infusion of public funds, private child care centers serving middle and working class families will continue to struggle to provide quality, and to be financially sustainable if they do. Mixed delivery options, including placing well-funded public pre-k classrooms and Head Start and Early Head Start slots, as well as substantially more CCAP slots that are funded at the level of the actual cost of quality, into centers that also serve tuition-paying children are critical to create access to quality care for middle and working class parents at a cost they can afford. 

 

Finally, given that two-thirds of parents are working and the cost of quality child care is so high, the greatest fear is that more families are now using unlicensed, unregulated care for their children while they work. This care is much less expensive, but has no assurances of even basic health and safety, much less meeting quality standards during a child’s most critical time of brain development.  


In response to the growing understanding of the urgent need for increased investment in early care and education, the Legislature and the Governor passed Act 639 of the 2018 Legislative Session, creating a bipartisan Louisiana’s Early Childhood Care and Education Commission, which was charged with developing a vision and framework for the future of early childhood care and education in Louisiana. (27) The Commission released a bold plan in February 2019, Funding our Future: LA B to 3, which recommends substantially increasing access to quality early care and education for children under age four by investing $86 million in new funding annually to increase the number of children able to be served from 22,000, as it is today, to 177,000 children under age four over the next decade. (28)

Endnotes

(1) Act 3 of 2012 Louisiana Legislative Session.  Retrieved from http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=800894 on July 14, 2019.

 

(2) Act 717 of 2014 Legislative Session.  Retrieved from http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=915816 on July 14, 2019.

 

(3) For Louisiana’s Kindergarten Readiness Definition, click here.  Retrieved on July 14, 2019.

 

(4) For Louisiana’s Birth to Five Early Learning and Development Standards, click here.. Retrieved on July 14, 2019.  Also see Louisiana Bulletin 136- - The Louisiana Standards for Early Childhood Care and Education Programs Serving Children Birth-Five Years at http://bese.louisiana.gov/documents-resources/policies-bulletins.

 

(5) See Louisiana Bulletin 140-Child Care and Education Network at http://bese.louisiana.gov/documents-resources/policies-bulletins.  Also click here for detailed information on the accountability system and the Performance Profiles.

(6) See Louisiana Bulletin 746- Louisiana Standards for State Certification of School Personnel at http://bese.louisiana.gov/documents-resources/policies-bulletins  Also click here for detailed  information on Louisiana’s Early Childhood Ancillary Teaching Certification.

(7) For information on the Louisiana School Readiness Tax Credits in general click here. For information on the recent changes to the School Readiness Tax Credit for teachers click here and scroll down to “School Readiness Tax Credit.”

(8) Click here and go down to “Curriculum Initiative” for more information on this initiative.

(9) See Louisiana Bulletin 140-Child Care and Education Network at http://bese.louisiana.gov/documents-resources/policies-bulletins.  Also click here for detailed information on the Coordinated Enrollment  System.

(10) Louisiana School Finder at https://louisianaschools.com.

(11) Early Childhood Care and Education Annual Report, presented by the Louisiana Department of Education to the Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council February 4, 2019, slide 30.  Retrieved from http://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/default-source/early-childhood/2-4-16--ecce-ac--quarterly-and-annual-report-presentation-slides.pdf?sfvrsn=2 on July 14, 2019.

(12) Creating an Integrated Efficient Early Care and Education System to Support Children and Families: A State-by-State Analysis. The Bipartisan Policy Center. (December 2018).  Retrieved from https://bipartisanpolicy.org/report/ece-administration-state-by-state on July 14, 2019.

(13) Lessons from the Bayou State: Three Reforms for Improving Teaching and Caregiving.  New America (Nov. 2018). Retrieved from https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/reports/lessons-louisianas-early-childhood-system on July 14, 2019.   How Louisiana Uses Early Childhood Performance Ratings to Fuel Site Improvement.  New America (July 2019). Retrieved from https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/edcentral/how-louisiana-uses-early-childhood-performance-ratings-fuel-site-improvement on July  14, 2019.

(14) Early Childhood Care and Education Annual Report, presented by the Louisiana Department of Education to the Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council February 4, 2019, slide 25.  Retrieved from http://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/default-source/early-childhood/2-4-16--ecce-ac--quarterly-and-annual-report-presentation-slides.pdf?sfvrsn=2 on July 14, 2019.

(15) Early Childhood Roundtables Presentation, presented by the Louisiana Department of Education at Roundtables across the state April-May 2019, slide 43.  Retrieved from https://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/default-source/early-childhood/early-childhood-roundtables-2019.pdf?sfvrsn=14f79f1f_8 on July 14, 2019.

(16) The US and the High Cost of Child Care: 2018 (Child Care Aware).  Retrieved from https://usa.childcareaware.org/advocacy-public-policy/resources/research/costofcare/ on July 13, 2019.

(17) 2017 Louisiana Child Care Market Rate Survey.  Retrieved from https://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/default-source/early-childhood/2017-louisiana-child-care-market-rate-survey.pdf?sfvrsn=dc55901f_6 on July  13, 2019.

(18) Early Childhood Care and Education Annual Report, presented by the Louisiana Department of Education to the Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council February 13, 2019, slide 44.  Retrieved from https://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/default-source/early-childhood/ecce-ac---presentation-slides---2-13-19.pdf?sfvrsn=8f029e1f_12  on July14, 2019.

(19) 2017 Louisiana Child Care Market Rate Survey.  Retrieved from https://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/default-source/early-childhood/2017-louisiana-child-care-market-rate-survey.pdf?sfvrsn=dc55901f_6 on July 13, 2019.

(20) Early Childhood Care and Education Annual Report, presented by the Louisiana Department of Education to the Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council February 13, 2019, slide 32.  Retrieved from https://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/default-source/early-childhood/ecce-ac---presentation-slides---2-13-19.pdf?sfvrsn=8f029e1f_12  on July14, 2019.

(21) Early Childhood Care and Education Annual Report, presented by the Louisiana Department of Education to the Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council February 13, 2019, slide 44.  Retrieved from https://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/default-source/early-childhood/ecce-ac---presentation-slides---2-13-19.pdf?sfvrsn=8f029e1f_12  on July14, 2019.

(22) Kids Count Data Center. (2017). Children under age 6 with all available parents in the labor force. Retrieved from https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/5057-children-under-age-6-with-all-available-parents-in-the-labor force#detailed/2/20/false/871,870,573,869,36,868,867,133,38,35/any/11472,11473 on July 13, 2019.

(23) Analysis of data on the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services website.  Retrieved from http://www.dcfs.la.gov/assets/docs/searchable/OFS/Statistics/Stats07-08/CCAP/fy0708_CCAP_Totals_F.pdf on January 9, 2018. And analysis of data on the Louisiana Department of Education website.  Retrieved from http://www.louisianabelieves.com/early-childhood/child-care-assistance-program see “2019 Child Care Program Statistics” and “Child Care Program Waitlist Statistics” retrieved on July 14, 2019.

(24) Louisiana Alice Report (2018). Louisiana Association of United Ways.  Retrieved from https://www.launitedway.org/alice-report-update-louisiana-released-january-2019 on July 14, 2019.  See also US and the High Cost of Child Care: 2018. Child Care Aware. Retrieved from https://usa.childcareaware.org/advocacy-public-policy/resources/research/costofcare on July 16, 2019.

(25) The Early Childhood Workforce Index 2018.  Center for the Study of Child Care Employment.  Retrieved from https://cscce.berkeley.edu/early-childhood-workforce-2018-index on July 16, 2019.

(26) Modeling Quality Child Care Center Costs and Revenues in Louisiana Policy Brief. Louisiana Policy Institute for Children. December 2018. Retrieved from  https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/43cca3_37e4443d919847fba14f9ff270a28f45.pdf on July 18, 2019.

(27) Act 639 of the 2018 Legislative Session.  Retrieved from http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/BillInfo.aspx?i=234175 on July 18, 2019.

(28) Funding our Future: LA B to 3 by the Louisiana’s Early Childhood Care and Education Commission (January 2019).  Retrieved from www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/default-source/early-childhood/early-childhood-care-and-education-commission-legislative-report.pdf?sfvrsn=9a099e1f_6 on July 18, 2019.