As part of our Parents' Night Out series, we're proud to present this guide to the New Orleans & Louisiana early childhood systems for parents, educators and advocates.
This is just the beginning of a conversation around access and equity. As with any brief, there are issues that we haven't touched on here that we will in the future, including parent perspectives and policy supports to ensure equitable education experiences for every child.
Psst — have you RSVP'd to tonight's Early Childhood Happy Hour at Propeller?
Video: OPEN Conversations on Early Childhood with Melanie Richardson of Training Grounds
Quality, equity and access for young learners
Fewer than 30% of Louisiana families thought to need childcare assistance actually receive it. Overall, the state only has enough budgeting to support learning programs for 11% of kids aged 0 to 3.
4 out of 10 families said they were not familiar with key indicators of quality for their children's programs, how to tell if their children were making progress, or if they were being adequately prepared for kindergarten.
Every year, 5,000 at-risk Louisiana four-year-olds will begin kindergarten likely already behind. Without systemic child supports, the haves and have-nots are set up before children even enter school.
In 2012 Louisiana passed the Early Childhood Education Act (Act 3) which charged the Department of Education with creating a statewide early childhood care and education network with unified expectations for teaching and learning, licensing, funding and enrollment. However, Act 3 includes no provisions to relieve the budget impact of these changes, leaving it up to (often incapable) local districts to make up the difference.
Child Care Assistance Program
The Louisiana Department of Education recently lowered the number of hours parents are required to work to qualify for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and increased the subsidy amount as well. But while the changes are great for parents who qualify, they also add to the program’s cost, meaning there are fewer slots overall to offer new parents.
Kindergarten Readiness Standards
Louisiana has adopted statewide standards for kindergarten readiness, translated into easy-to-understand tasks and capabilities. See here to understand where your child needs to be by age 5:
What You Can Do
School readiness starts at home. Work with your family to create nurturing, language- rich and stimulating environments for children in your home and neighborhood.
Make a list
Ready to place your child in a care center? Choose carefully and have your priorities in mind at the start. Small class sizes, language-rich environments, and staff that actively encourage communication are all important.
Know your child
What kind of personality does your child have? Are they curious and outgoing, or introverted and sensitive? Nobody knows your kid better than you, and keeping those traits in mind from the start will help you make a good choice.
Understand the kindergarten readiness standards and make sure that your child's educational setting — in and outside of the home — is setting her up for success.
Hold systems accountable. Follow the money and make sure that federal funding designed to support famiiles in securing quality early childcare is used for that purpose. Are kids in your neighborhood or district underserved? Call your local representative and make it clear you're holding them responsible.