Despite threatened budget cuts earlier, state aid for pre-kindergarten classes emerged unscathed after three legislative sessions dominated by budget problems.

“This is a victory in the face of huge cuts to early childhood education over the past eight years,” said Melanie Bronfin, executive director of the Policy Institute for Children in New Orleans.

Earlier this year pre-K programs faced reductions of up to $23 million for aid affecting more than 5,000 students.

That included $7 million for a program that aids about 1,500 low-income children in state-approved private preschools and child care centers and another $7 million for the LA4 program that would trim those ranks by 1,528 seats -- nearly 10 percent.

In addition, the Legislature considered but shelved proposals to end dedicated funds for classes used by about 2,300 children -- $9 million.

All the cuts were suggested amid a $600 million shortfall for state services starting July 1.

However, about half the shortfall was eliminated by tax hikes and other steps, and pre-K programs won enough political support from Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Legislature to remain unchanged from last year.

Bronfin noted that the positive news only applies to four-year-old students.

She noted state aid for those under four has undergone huge cuts in the past seven years.

That effort, called the Child Care Assistance Program, helps pay for the cost of child care for children from birth to 4 years old while parents are at work, school or in job training.

Enrollment in CCAP shrunk from about 40,000 to about 12,000 children under former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Earlier this year new rules to make the child care more affordable took effect, including higher stipends and easier ways to apply.

“We also have to keep our eye on the fact it is a standstill budget in the face of huge cuts in the past years that need to be addressed,” Bronfin said.

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