Letter to the Editor: Call your representative and encourage them to invest in early childhood education

Published 12:03 pm Wednesday, June 7, 2023

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Dear Editor,

Most citizens of the United States of America know who the President is. Most registered voters will stand in line for hours to cast their vote for President. But do we know who our Senators are? Do we know who our State Representatives are? Do we know who our School Board Members are?

Most importantly, do we know the power they have over our day-to-day lives?

When we cast our vote for President, we feel good, as though we have done our civic duty. The reality is, whatever a President does, rarely will we feel the total impact of it, and even when we do feel the impact, it isn’t usually an immediate result.  When state legislators go into a legislative session, the laws they are creating, the budgets they are passing, the amendments that get proposed and passed, these things impact us almost instantly.

Governor John Bel Edwards presented his executive budget – House Bill 1 (HB 1) to the Louisiana House of Representatives. He proposed $52 million for early childhood education. The House Appropriations Committee voted to eliminate the $52 million before sending it to the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration. This brings the investment to $0.

Zero dollars. Please let that sink in!

There was lots of debate in the Senate Finance Committee. Numerous advocates showed up to the State Capitol urging Senators to please restore the $52 million into the budget. Lots of testimony was given that highlighted the unending amount of research that has been done on the impacts of quality early childhood education. A child’s brain is 80% wired by the time the child turns 5 years old. Children who receive quality early childhood education are more likely to have successful academic careers, less likely to go to prison, more likely to have healthy relationships throughout life, less likely to need government assistance as an adult, and more likely to be productive citizens.

The Senate Finance Committee restored $14 million in the budget, and now the budget has been sent back to the Louisiana House of Representatives for them to either accept or reject the Senate amendments that were made to the budget.

I have been asked on several occasions why it is so important for the state to invest in early childhood education when the state receives federal funding for this very program. The answer to that is quite dynamic. The short answer is, without this funding, nearly 16,000 children will lose access to early childhood education. Do you know someone who receives the Child Care Assistance Program? Their access to that funding is in jeopardy without this investment from the State of Louisiana.

This comes as such a pivotal moment for rural areas, especially places like Bogalusa. Bogalusa families are already scrambling to figure out what they’re going to do with their child now that the Bogalusa School Board has voted to go to a 4-day week. Families were told that they can reach out to early childhood centers for placement, and that they would qualify for the Child Care Assistance Program. While it is true that they may qualify, there is a current waiting list. Families who qualify go on the waiting list until funding is available. If we do not fund this program and we lose seats, that means the waiting list will continue to grow, thus Bogalusa families will not have funding for their child to receive to go to an early learning center for the 5th day of the week. In fact, Bogalusa families that are currently receiving funding will potentially lose their funding.

This means we will have more children, of all ages, not receiving quality education.

Our children are our greatest resource. They are our greatest asset. We need to invest in them! But what we are seeing right now is not an investment in our children. What we are seeing is a backseat approach.

It is time that those who are making these decisions for us, those who were voted into their positions by us, it is time they hear from us!

Please call your representative and encourage them to invest in early childhood education!

225 342-6945 is the number to call. The representatives for the Northshore region are Robby Carter, Mary DuBuisson, Paul Hollis, Nick Muscarella, Richard Nelson, Bob Owen, Bill Wheat, Malinda White, Mark Wright, Larry Frieman

Time is of the essence! The legislative session must end no later than Thursday, June 8th at 6:00pm.

The message is clear:

Please RESTORE $52 million for the Child Care Assistance Program to help children, aged birth to five, whose families are on the waiting list.

This state investment would cover 4,000 seats in high quality childcare centers so that working moms and dads can continue to go to work or complete their college education so that our children can become kindergarten ready.

Written by Jen Kelsay Stevenson