BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — A Louisiana senator is pushing for pre-K to be available in all elementary schools. Under SB47, it would give kids beginning at age three the option to attend full-day preschool.
“Our kids are starting way behind, so we got to first put our kids on an even playing field by getting them in the game early,” Sen. Cleo Fields said.
Last session, Sen. Fields passed a bill that made kindergarten mandatory for five-year-olds. This year he is trying to get preschool offered in every elementary school that offers kindergarten. While it wouldn’t be mandatory, it would be a chance for families to get their kids learning during critical brain development ages.
“It’s just a vicious cycle. I mean, parents don’t put their kids in early childhood education because they can’t afford it and then parents end up staying at home or they take their kids to their grandmother. And it is just a vicious cycle,” Sen. Fields said.
He is aware there is a teacher shortage, which could pose an issue in filling positions to teach these classes. Dr. Tia Mills, the president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said there is some work happening to find ways to recruit and retain teachers.
“We have to offer more incentives to get teachers to teach,” Sen. Fields said.
Another hurdle for the bill is the price tag of creating these classes will have on the taxpayer dollar. The fiscal note is being created for the bill now to see what it would cost. Mills said the investment would be worth it for kids to be more successful in their educational careers.
“My response to the fiscal note is, you know, it’s going to lessen the fiscal note on the corrections on the backside,” Sen. Fields said. “Either we pay on the front side by educating these kids or we pay on the backside by incarcerating a bunch of kids.”
He also expects to get some push back from daycares potentially losing business but he plans to work with them more leading up to debates on the bill. The regular legislative session begins March 14 when the bill will be taken up for debate.