About 15,000 children from low-income families will have better access to quality day care under a plan endorsed Tuesday by Louisiana’s top school board.
The key is tapping into $10 million in federal aid, state Superintendent of Education John White said.
“I think it is a common sense proposal,” White said.
The program is called the Child Care Assistance Program.
It is aimed at helping finance the cost of day care for children from birth to 4 years old from low-income families while parents are at work, school or in job training. However, the program has been sharply reduced under the Jindal administration.
White said enrollment has shrunk from about 40,000 children to about 15,000.
In addition, he said, offering families a maximum of $1,700 per year for day care subsidies sparked less interest because of concerns about the quality of the setting that it pays for.
“As you can imagine, that is not that great a deal,” White said.
The plan approved on Tuesday increases the subsidies to up to $4,000 yearly and liberalizes eligibility rules.
Under the new schedule, payments for infants and toddlers will rise to $22.50 per day from $18.50.
The rate for prekindergarten students will rise to $21.50 per day from $17.50.
Under the previous rules, subsidies for 4-year-olds in day care, including what parents paid, was less than one-third what students got in state pre-K programs.
In another change, families will be eligible for aid for at least one year regardless of life changes. Under the previous policy, families risked losing the assistance due to changes in work or school status.
Also, families classified as living in poverty will not face any co-pay, which they have to provide now.
The changes are linked to Louisiana’s revamp of its pre-K system, which stems from a 2012 law pushed by Jindal.
The law is aimed at repairing a system plagued by uneven standards, varying quality and confusion for parents.
However, child care advocates have said for months that money is needed to finance improvements, especially for low-income families.
Cindy Bishop, executive director of the Child Care Association of Louisiana, praised the changes.
Bishop said the higher subsidies will allow parents to avoid “unlicensed, unregulated homes.”
Melanie Bronfin, executive director of the Policy Institute for Children in New Orleans, said the changes will have a huge, positive impact.
“But what it does not address is the children who are not served,” Bronfin told BESE.
The next goal, she said, is to “increase the pot so we serve more children and they don’t end up in unlicensed day care.”
The changes were approved by a BESE committee.
However, most of the 11-member panel was on hand, and approval on Wednesday is all but certain.
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