A JUST START

A Just Start is our call for systemic investments ensuring from-birth support for every child born in New Orleans — no matter their race or family income — and for tackling the intersections between inequitable economic, health, justice and education structures that work together to stifle children’s academic opportunities and life outcomes.
We believe that from birth, children have a right to a high quality of life equipped with supportive family and social systems and that it is the job of the people to ensure this through advocacy, policy change, community organization and systemic investment.
It is time to stop waiting for the symptoms of disinvestment to show up in our classrooms and communities, and put energy into addressing deficits in systems instead of kids and families.

In pursuit of this vision, we demand:

  • An integrated and accessible system of family supports and service delivery, from maternal & infant health to investing in parents as first educators
  • Louisiana provides all families with affordable health insurance programs that extensively cover prenatal and maternal, physical and mental health needs and services
  • Universal access to high-quality early childhood programs
  • A high quality, trained and financially supported early educator workforce
  • Investments in affordable housing, high wage employment and wealth creation for Black and low-income families
  • An increase in the living and minimum wages that allow working families to thrive no matter their family structure or type of employment
  • A city-wide community safety and wellness plan that prioritizes family stability in its efforts to create safe communities
  • Mass de-carceration of heads of Black and low-income households and an end to cash bail and other pre-trial practices that unfairly tax poor communities and remove needed resources from children’s households

PUBLIC POLICY AND YOUNG CHILDREN

FAST FACTS: EARLY CHILDHOOD IN LOUISIANA

We all know what it takes for children to thrive: healthy and present caregivers, stable families, strong social networks, safe and resourced neighborhoods, and high-quality and accessible social supports. Yet many children and families in New Orleans cannot access the ingredients for a thriving life and face many connected and sobering realities:

  • Health: New Orleans’ infant mortality and low birthweight — strong predictors for health, income and educational inequities across the lifespan — far exceed national averages.
  • Family & Social Supports: 94,000 children in Louisiana have or have had a parent who is incarcerated instead of supporting their families and communities. Black children are seven times more likely to have an incarcerated parent than white children. In New Orleans, nearly 40% of the city’s children are living in poverty even though 82% of families have at least one working parent.
  • Economic Stability: Most low-income households are led by working mothers in a city where 64,000 women earn less than $17,500 — less than half the income required to afford rent.
  • Access: Only 15% of children younger than 4 years old can access publicly funded early childhood program, leaving most families with no strong foundation for their child’s future K-12 success.
  • School Readiness: Over half of kindergarteners entering the public school system will be considered “developmentally behind” on their first day of school.
LEGISLATIVE WATCH: 2018 SESSION
Children as young as five years old walking into kindergarten already behind is not a symbol of “disadvantage” or “risk,” but an injustice. Public policy’s fundamental purpose is to correct injustice. So how did this year shake out for early systemic investments?

  • New early childhood Commission and pilot programming: HB676 (Hilferty) creates the the Early Childhood Care and Education Commission, which is tasked with studying and creating a vision for the state’s early child care and education system. The bill also makes allowances for pilot programs for community early childhood care and education networks.
  • A (temporary) defeat for early childcare funding: HB513 (Carter) would have drawn $10 million from the Unclaimed Property Leverage Fund to provide Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) services to 5200 children currently on the waiting list. The Senate Finance Committee decided to hold the bill, which means it is effectively gone for this session. However, Chairman Eric Lafleur indicated that $10 million would be put “below the line” to the current version of the state’s budget. What this means is the $10 million is not currently funded, but if sufficient revenue is raised during the Special Legislative Session that will begin at the end of this month, it could be.
  • New school readiness assessments for Deaf children: HB199 (P. Smith) creates a special task force to develop the framework for assessing children who are deaf or hard of hearing to determine language skills and ensure kindergarten readiness.
Want more? See the 2018 Louisiana Legislative Session overview or full 2018 education bill roster at the OPEN blog.
RESOURCES