BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The Louisiana Legislature has made an 84 million dollar investment, passing HB1 and HB406 for early care and education for Louisiana’s children. Policy Director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children RuthAnne Oakey-Frost said less than 50 percent of children are starting school kindergarten-ready. 

The $44 million appropriation of HB1 would give $25 million to expand the Child Care Assistance Program, which provides assistance to families to help pay for the child care needed in order to work or attend school or training. In addition, this appropriation would also give approximately $18 million to improve rates offered to existing 4-year-old programs.

HB406 will allocate $40 million towards the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund, which offers local entities a dollar-for-dollar state match to expand access to quality early care and education programs for children and families who need it most.

“We’re considering it a historic down payment on what the state needs to do to move Louisiana ahead,” said Frost. “We’re just incredibly excited that lawmakers had the foresight to really prioritize this crucial issue in a year where they had the funding to do so.” 

“Our studies have shown that childcare is frequently the most expensive item in a family’s budget, it’s often more expensive than a rent or mortgage payment,” said Frost.  

Studies also show that children who aren’t on grade level by the end of the third grade have increased chances of being high school dropouts and involved in the juvenile or criminal justice system later in life. 

“If you invest upfront in people and help them get on the right track you are far less likely to have to pay all those direct costs of incarceration and rehabilitation and then the societal costs,” said Frost.

Oakey-Frost said these bills will have a major impact on the workforce and long-term positive impacts on our children. Both bills have been sent to the governor for executive approval. 

“If a family needs access to high-quality early care and education in the state, they should be able to get it,” said Frost.