Baton Rouge – Louisiana has been awarded nearly $8 million to enhance the quality of early childhood education in communities across the state. The bulk of the funding, about $7.1 million, comes from a competitive federal Preschool Development Grant, and about $800,000 comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as part of a private match required by the grant process. The funding will help drive faster rates of improvement and equip more classrooms with fully prepared teachers.
“In recent years Louisiana has worked diligently to create an integrated, efficient early childhood education system through policies that better serve our children and families,” said State Superintendent John White. “This award is a validation of the state’s approach and sets us up to take ambitious next steps.”
The one-year funding, which will expire in December 2019, will allow Louisiana to:
Equip communities to make informed decisions to improve local early care and education. In response to recent legislation, the Louisiana Department of Education will establish locally-led pilot programs that will establish governing structures to guide local plans and funding for early childhood.
Incorporate family homes into the statewide network of early childhood education providers. Many young children are cared for and educated in family home settings that are not currently part of the state’s early childhood network. The Department will research and study family homes to inform a strategic plan to ensure family homes have access the resources and supports needed to provide high-quality learning.
Enhance the quality of early childhood education provided to young learners. The Department will expand professional development opportunities for teachers to ensure they are fully prepared for the classroom and to equip them with the curricular tools and resources needed to provide high-quality experiences to children.
Improve systems that inform the statewide network of early childhood education providers. The Department will conduct a study of the state’s unified quality rating system and implement a program to build efficiencies by sharing resources across childcare sites, like shared substitute teacher pools or shared purchasing to maximize funding.
Early childhood education networks will receive subgrants to support the rollout of these initiatives. Subgrants will total more than $3.75 million.
“I’m proud of the Department for their successful application, and thankful for the many stakeholders that signed on the application,” said Tony Davis, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Among other activities, this grant will help increase parents’ knowledge of the early childhood environment and promote their involvement with local centers, which we know is key to a successful future.”
Melanie Bronfin, Executive Director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, agreed. “It is wonderful that Louisiana was chosen to be one of the states to receive the Preschool Development Grant. This will provide us supports to enhance the quality of our early care and education programs.”
“However,” Bronfin added, “given that these funds cannot be used for seats, and given that we are only serving 15 percent of our children in need from birth through age three, we look forward to future opportunities to increase the publicly funded seats for our hard-working families who desperately need access to reliable, affordable, quality care for their young children.”
Louisiana currently serves nearly all 4-year-old children. But the state only serves 7 percent of in-need children birth to age two and 33 percent of in-need children age three. To date, an additional 3,130 children remain on a waiting list for services. The receipt of this Preschool Development Grant award allows the state to apply for future grant dollars to expand access to fully funded seats in early learning centers, a critical need for Louisiana children and families.