State of Early Care and Education

At a Glance: Early Care and Education in Louisiana

173,000

total in-need children birth through age 3 in Louisiana

114,000

in-need children without access to a high-quality early care and education program in Louisiana

$760M

annual loss faced by Louisiana employers from employee absences and turnover due to child care issues

$1.3B

annual loss faced by Louisiana’s economy from employee absences and turnover due to child care issues

The Louisiana Policy Institute for Children is a nonpartisan, independent source of data, research, and pertinent information for policymakers, stakeholders, and the public at large around issues related to children ages birth through four in Louisiana.

Why Early Care and Education Costs So Much

  • Child care providers, like many small businesses, operate on narrow gross margins and rely on private tuition. However, if they raise their tuition too much, they risk pricing families out of their center. 
    • Many quality-rated child care centers struggle to break even or operate at a loss. 
    • Child care costs almost as much as public college tuition in Louisiana,v with infant care in a center costing over $8,700 per year on average, according to Child Care Aware of America.
    • Cost models show that centers rarely charge families the actual cost for their younger children, using tuition for 3- and 4-year-olds to subsidize the infants through 2-year-olds.
  • In order to provide high-quality care, center directors must hire and pay enough teachers to ensure low teacher-to-child ratios, the number of adults based on the number of children. The teacher-to-child ratios in child care settings are required to be much lower compared to K-12 settings. 
    • Low teacher-to-child ratios are linked to children’s increased cognitive development, decreased behavioral problems, increased verbal development, and increased social competence.
    • To provide quality programming, centers operate with teacher-to-child ratios below minimum state licensure requirements. 
    • Infant care is expensive because the teacher-to-child ratios are very low and costs at least $3,600 more than care for 3- and 4-year-olds.
    • To meet certain pre-kindergarten requirements, centers employ teachers with bachelor’s degrees to lead classrooms for 4-year-olds and pay higher wages to compete with elementary schools for talent. 
  • The child care sector does not receive a significant amount of public funding to help them offset the costs of providing high-quality care and provide more families with access to child care regardless of their income. 
    • Head Start and Early Head Start programs serve only 6.6% of eligible children below age 3 and 46% of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds in Louisiana. 
    • Louisiana spends less than 1% of its state budget on early care and education.

Early Care and Education Workforce

  • Early care and education providers are teaching professionals who use age-appropriate learning materials and curriculum in their classrooms, support positive interpersonal interactions, and foster a safe and secure learning environment for young children. 
  • However, the early care and education workforce is not well-compensated across the nation and particularly in the state of Louisiana.
    • Wages for child care workers in Louisiana average $9.77 per hour, lower than the national average ($12.27) and the Southern states average ($10.97).
    • Many child care centers simply cannot afford to raise the wages of their staff because they are already operating on razor-thin margins. 
  • Child care workers tend to turn over quickly and leave the profession early, which negatively impacts the quality of care available to young children.
    • This causes Louisiana child care businesses to struggle to find and retain talent. 
  • The child care sector does not receive a significant amount of public funding to help offset the costs of providing high-quality care such as increasing wages for the child care teachers. 

Early Care and Education Access and Enrollment

4-Year-Olds
  • Over 90% of 4-year-olds in Louisiana attend free public pre-K in schools or Head Start programs.
  • 90% of 4-year-olds are in a program rated as a quality program. 
Birth to 3-Year-Olds
  • For children under age 4, quality early care and education is severely underfunded and out of reach for most low-income, working families. 
  • Less than 15% of low-income children under age 4 have access to any publicly funded program, including only 34% of 3-year-olds, 10% of 2-year-olds, 7% of 1-year-olds, and 3% of infants. 

Louisiana’s Available Early Care and Education Programs

Programs for 4-Year-Olds

Louisiana’s quality early care and education programs for 4-year-olds include (1) the Cecil J. Picard LA 4 Early Childhood Program, (2) 8(g) Student Enhancement Block Grant Program, (3) Nonpublic School Early Childhood Development Program, (4) federally funded Head Start 4-year-old program, and (5) Title I funding used by school districts for pre-K. 

  • Cecil J. Picard LA 4 Early Childhood Program 
    • The Cecil J. Picard LA 4 Early Childhood Program (LA4) is the primary preschool program in Louisiana, serving more than 16,000 children. It provides full-day pre-K programming in public schools to 4-year-olds from disadvantaged families.
  • 8(g) Student Enhancement Block Grant Program
    • The 8(g) Student Enhancement Block Grant Program supports roughly 3,000 at-risk preschool students to attend pre-K programs each year through the Louisiana Education Quality Support Fund, administered by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
  • Nonpublic School Early Childhood Development Program
    • The Nonpublic Schools Early Childhood Development (NSECD) Program provides pre-K programming to more than 1,300 4-year-olds from low-income families. Children in the NSECD program receive full-day pre-K in state-approved private preschools and child care centers.
  • Head Start 4-year-old Program
    • Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families through comprehensive preschool programming.
  • Title I funding used by school districts for pre-K
    • Louisiana school districts can use Title I funding to provide high-quality pre-K to 4-year-olds in public schools, typically adopting the same standards as LA4.

Programs for Birth to 3-Year-Olds

Louisiana’s publicly funded early care and education programs for children under age 4 are (1) Head Start (HS) programs, (2) Early Head Start (EHS) programs, and (3) the Child Care Assistance Program. 

  • Head Start and Early Head Start
    • Head Start (HS) programs serve 3- and 4-year-olds and Early Head Start (EHS) programs serve infants through 2-year-olds. Both are entirely federally funded through grants to local public and private entities. 
    • The total number of HS and EHS slots available in Louisiana serves only a small percentage of the eligible population. 
  • Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)
    • The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) is the only state-administered early care and education program that serves children under age 4 
    • To qualify for CCAP, parents must be working or searching for work, in school or in job training, and low-income. 

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History of Early Care and Education System Reforms 

  • In 2012, the Louisiana Legislature passed the Early Childhood Education Act (Act 3), which mandated sweeping reforms to early care and education and moved system governance from the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (LDCFS) to the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE). 
    • Act 3 sought to improve school readiness by bringing all early childhood sites receiving public dollars into a single system with consistent quality standards. 
    • Later legislation through Act 717 passed in 2014 mandated a common enrollment system for all publicly funded early care and education programs 
  • The Louisiana Legislature passed Act 868 in 2014 to create a standing Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council of parents, providers, advocates and community leaders to make recommendations to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to guide Act 3 implementation. 
    • This Advisory Council supports the ongoing governance of the state’s early care and education system and recommends, reviews, and approves administrative policy changes to improve it. 
  • In 2018, the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 639, which created the bipartisan Early Childhood Care and Education Commission, which is made up of 38 representatives of government, ECE providers, advocates, parents, and community. The Commission is charged with creating recommendations to increase access to quality early care and education, identifying the amount and sources of funding needed to accomplish them, and reporting findings back to the Louisiana Legislature.  
    • Act 639 also authorized local governance pilots, known as Ready Start Networks, to help community networks drive continued improvement in early care and education access, quality, and equity.
  • The Louisiana Department of Education created local early childhood community networks in each parish to ensure locally accessible and responsive early care and education systems that address the needs of diverse families.
    • Each network encompasses all publicly-funded early care and education programs and has a lead agency – a school district or nonprofit – that coordinates classroom observations, enrollment to match families with programs that meet their needs, family engagement, and planning among ECE leaders and families. 

Public Funding for Early Care and Education

Federal Funding

The following are current federal funding sources for early care and education in Louisiana:

  • The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), also known as the Child Care and Development Block Grant, funds state efforts to provide child care services for low-income family members who work, train for work, attend school, or whose children receive or need to receive protective services.
    • In FY2020, Louisiana received $147,000,754 in CCDF dollars. 
  • The Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) program is a $250 million competitive federal grant designed to improve states’ early childhood systems by building upon existing federal, state, and local early care and learning investments. 
    • In 2019, Louisiana received over $11 million of PDG dollars each year for three years, starting in 2020, to create at least 600 new seats at early learning sites for low-income children birth to age 3, improve the quality of early childhood education programming, and build the capacity of local communities to meet the needs of their youngest learners.
  • Head Start and Early Head Start are federal programs that promote school readiness for children ages birth to 5 from low-income families through comprehensive preschool programming.
    • In FY2019, Louisiana received $194,760,231 in Head Start and Early Head Start funding. 
  • Federal coronavirus relief: Between March 2020 and March 2021, states received federal COVID-19 relief money through three stimulus bills: (1) the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act; (2) the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplementary Appropriations (CRRSA) Act; and (3) the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The acts provide substantial support for states to address challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, including $50 billion specifically dedicated to child care. 
    • In total, Louisiana received an estimated $1.03 billion in federal aid for early care and education from these three bills.
      • Louisiana received a total of $67.6 million from the CARES Act for early care and education, which must be spent by September 30, 2022.
      • Louisiana received a total of $198.3 million from the CRRSA Act for early care and education, which must be spent by September 30, 2023. 
      • Louisiana received a total of over $772 million from ARPA, which must be spent by September 30, 2024. 
  • The Build Back Better Act is a bill, first introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on September 27, 2021, that provides funding for a wide array of programs, including education, labor, child care, health care, tax, immigration, and environmental policies. 
    • The Build Back Better Act includes a historic $400B investment in child care and early learning over 6 years – the largest in U.S. history. The current framework of the Build Back Better Act expands access to free high-quality preschool for more than 6 million children. Parents will be able to send children to high-quality preschool in the setting of their choice – from public schools to child care providers to Head Start. The Act also limits child care costs for families to no more than 7% of income, for families earning up to 250% of state median income (the vast majority of working families of four earning less than $300,000 per year) for children under 6 years of age. The framework will help states expand access to high-quality, affordable child care to about 20 million children per year – covering 9-out-of-10 families across the country with young children.  

State Funding

  • Louisiana spends less than 1% of its state budget on early care and education. 
  • In 2019, the Louisiana Early Childhood Care and Education Commission released a bold plan, Funding Our Future: LA B to 3, which recommends investing $86 million in new funding annually over the next decade to increase the number of children under age 4 served in early care and education programs from 22,000 to 177,000 children
    • The Commission is a bipartisan commission charged with developing a vision and framework for the future of early childhood care and education in Louisiana.
    • In 2021, the Commission found that if Louisiana does not make this investment, in 10 years, our state will experience a collective $12.1 billion loss. 
    • But if we make that investment, and continue making it, we will experience a collective $1.8 billion economic gain.
  • The Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund is a state matching fund that offers local entities in Louisiana a dollar-for-dollar match on investments made to expand access to quality early care and education for children who need it most. 
    • This state fund has been growing and has several dedicated sources of revenue.  These revenue sources include: 
      • Sports-betting: 25% of sports betting revenues, up to $20 million, to the Fund.
      • Pelicans specialty license plate: 50% of NBA Pelicans specialty license plate revenues will go to the Fund.
      • Land-based casinos: Up to $3.6 million will go to the Fund if the casino revenues paid to the state exceed $60 million a year ($65 million a year after August 2022).
      • Hemp-derived CBD products: Louisiana will tax industrial hemp-derived CBD products at 3%, and the revenues are dedicated to the Fund.
      • Fantasy sports betting: Louisiana will tax fantasy sports-betting at 8% and a portion of the revenues are dedicated to the fund.
    • The first distributions from this fund are expected to be distributed in 2022. 

Local Funding

  • Local entities can receive a dollar-for-dollar match on investments made to expand access to quality early care and education for children who need it most from the  Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund. The first distributions from this fund are expected to be distributed in 2022.
    • Local entities such as municipalities and parishes can get a dollar-for-dollar match on investments made to expand access to quality early care and education for children who need it most. 
  • The Early Childhood Care and Education Commission has charged a task force to examine potential funding mechanisms for local entities to utilize in raising revenue to support early care and education in their communities. 
  • Several Louisiana communities have committed to addressing early care and education at the local level. 
    • East Baton Rouge School District is exploring expanding its offerings for 4-year-olds and expanding coverage of 3-year-olds by utilizing empty classrooms in district schools and partnering with local, quality-rated child care providers to staff those classrooms. The project is currently being funded with federal relief dollars, including federal dollars dedicated to developing a strategic plan to finance the expansion long-term after relief aid expires. 
    • Jefferson Parish allocated $250,000 in its parish budget to support expanded quality early care and education offerings to local residents.
    • New Orleans allocated $3 million in its city budget to create the “City Seats” program. This program provides quality early care and education to local families as well as some wrap-around services and is modeled after Early Head Start. New Orleans first dedicated city money to this program in 2017 and doubled its investment annually between 2018 and 2020.
    • Pointe Coupee Parish leveraged school readiness tax credits to encourage greater local investment in quality programs benefiting 3-year-olds. While Louisiana averages serving half of at-risk 3-year-olds statewide, Pointe Coupee Parish serves over 90% of its 3-year-olds.
    • Shreveport engaged with local business leaders and philanthropic organizations to fundraise $1 million to support expanded quality early care and education offerings to local residents.

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