Louisiana’s budget crisis is threatening to damage three of the state’s key pre-kindergarten programs, an advocate for the aid said.
Potential cuts to the state Department of Education and proposed legislation would end funding for two programs — they finance classes for 3,796 students — and trim slots for the state’s LA4 program by nearly 10 percent — 1,528 children, said Melanie Bronfin, executive director of the Policy Institute for Children in New Orleans.
“They are all being attacked at once; that is basically what is going on,” Bronfin said.
The issue was expected to be one of the topics when a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committees met at 1 p.m. to discuss aid for the state Department of Education.
The subcommittee recessed about 3 p.m., then resumed discussions Monday night.
The agency, like a wide range of state services, faces reductions for the financial year that begins July 1 because of the state’s roughly $800 million shortfall.
The department was threatened with a $44 million cut by June 30 during the special session, which education officials said at the time would decimate aid for early childhood, vouchers and testing.
That threat was later dropped.
However, Bronfin said the programs face renewed threats in the regular session, in part because the dollars are tucked away in a little-noticed part of the agency called “subgrantee assistance.”
“Early childhood education programs live in the subgrantee assistance part of the budget,” said Bronfin, who has been a key player in the state’s effort to revamp all of its pre-K services.
Under Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposed budget starting July 1, aid for the state Department of Education would be sliced by about $85 million.
Bronfin said about $7 million is at risk for a program that aids about 1,500 low-income children in state-approved private preschools and child care centers.
Current funding is $4,580 per child.
In a second area, Bronfin said nearly $9 million that finances classes for about 2,300 children is in peril because of proposed legislation to end dedicated funds.
Undedicating dollars, in this case for education, has won support among some lawmakers in recent weeks as a way to free up money for state services.
Bronfin said another $7 million in aid for the LA4 program would trim those ranks by 1,528 seats.
Just over 16,000 students from disadvantaged families are enrolled now.
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