Quality Early Childhood Education is the Key to Advancing North Louisiana

by | Nov 1, 2023 | News

In 2018 Community Counts revealed 59% of children in Shreveport-Bossier were not kindergarten ready. The alarming decrease in kindergarten readiness since 2012 is a focus of CFNLA. Numerous studies indicate lack of kindergarten readiness correlates strongly with academic and behavioral challenges and involvement with both juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.

CFNLA’s 2018 NWLA Early Childhood Summit, including over 60 attendees from local businesses and government, tackled this issue head on. We knew increasing high-quality preschool enrollment would likely result in an increase in kindergarten readiness. We also knew at an average of $9,000 per year, preschool is unaffordable for many in our area.

Luckily, Louisiana recognized the importance of ECE and created a fund designed to provide a dollar-for-dollar match for local funds raised for this purpose. In 2021, CFNLA raised $1 million to seek a $1 million match from the state. Thanks to generous donors, we met that goal and over 200 qualifying children received scholarships to Type III Childcare centers.  In the fall of 2023, the City of Shreveport committed nearly $3 million to the ECE Fund to ensure a $3 million match from the state. This will enable approximately 650 children to receive scholarships this year. CFNLA is now raising money for 2024 scholarships!

Thus far, outcomes have shown the tremendous value of these investments. Since 2019, ECE enrollment for infants has increased from 72 to 172, 121 to 337 for 1-year olds, and 205 to 372 for 2-year-olds. Revenue has increased for the participating childcare centers [1] which have added ten new classrooms in the last two years. Finally, data demonstrates children who attended Type III childcare centers are far more kindergarten ready than their peers who do not attend.

Ensuring children are ready to start school is how we proactively change our community. By equipping children for the future, we increase reading scores, increase graduation rates, decrease idleness, and decrease crime. CFNLA has committed to raise a total of $3 million to seek a $3 million match from the state for 2024 Caddo Parish scholarships. Beyond 2024, CFNLA is working to ensure sustainable long-term early childhood education funding. To learn more or donate visit: cfnla.org/ece.

[1] Type III centers are privately owned small businesses that must utilize state curriculum and submit to the state grading system.  Children below a certain income threshold are eligible for scholarships (that include summer months) if their parents are working or in school.  This is an economic game changer for families.