Families first! The path to Louisiana’s long-term economic growth is anchored in our state’s support of children and families, specifically in building a quality early childhood education (ECE) system. The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR), in its new report, Start Strong: The Case for Priority Investment in Louisiana Early Childhood Programs, makes the most compelling case of the importance of ECE to our collective futures. Investing in early childhood must be a priority, PAR argues, because “perhaps no project stands a better chance of moving the needle in favor of Louisiana’s social and economic status.”
The report chronicles and celebrates the state’s steady progress at building, strengthening and investing in early childhood education. It highlights the next phase of work to strengthen ECE in Louisiana: solidifying its financing and strengthening its governance. While investments in ECE have steadily increased, the state’s investment is threaded together on tax credits and a few funding dedications. If Louisiana is to solidify and catapult its 8th ranked early childhood system on the pathway toward a stronger Louisiana economy, it will require sustained funding and a strengthened governance structure. PAR, a WKKF grantee, builds its case after surveying and detailing national best practices in ECE governance and offers insights on how other states have financed early childhood.
Start Strong is essential reading for lawmakers, business leaders and anyone interested in understanding ‘what’s all the hoopla about early childhood’ in Louisiana. Moreover, it’s a guide for other states as they consider how to strengthen ECE. The report provides actionable recommendations Louisiana’s ECE leaders and policymakers can take to get the state to the next level. The global pandemic has clarified early childhood education as a critical infrastructure for our nation. In a moment when there is unprecedented federal investment for our youngest learners, now is the time to take the next steps forward. PAR is illuminating a path in Start Strong!