Included in Governor John Bel Edwards’ budget proposal for next fiscal year is a fully funded TOPS scholarship program, an increase to higher education, and a $1,000 teacher pay raise. Left out is any additional money for early childhood education, a program whose funding could end up being a point of contention during the legislative session that starts in April.
Early childhood education programs serve children between birth and four years of age, preparing them for kindergarten.
Jessica Baghian, Assistant Superintendent of education in Louisiana, says while improvements have been made to early childhood education in the state, many children still aren't able to access the care.
According to a recent report by Louisiana's Early Childhood Care and Education Commission, just over 30% of three year olds from low income families have access to quality early childhood care in the state. For children even younger, that rate drops below 7%.
In an effort to fund the program, lawmakers have floated the idea of dedicating revenue from sports betting, which would first have to be approved in Louisiana. A bill is expected next session that would legalized sports betting in the state.
On this week's Capitol Access, Jessica Baghian discusses the access gap to early childhood education for low income families in Louisiana, as well as the Department's response to the idea of dedicating revenue.