I agree that “the future of Louisiana depends on how willing and able we are to care for and prepare our youngest citizens to be successful in school and in life” (Child advocate: Candidates should focus on youngest Louisianans, Sept. 13). As a retired general, I can tell you that our future national security also depends on high-quality early care and education.
We have a serious problem when 75% of young people in Louisiana cannot qualify for the military, the third highest rate in the country. The leading reasons are because they are too overweight, too poorly educated, or have a serious record of crime or drug abuse.
The best way to address these problems is to start early. Research highlighted in reports from the nonprofit Mission: Readiness shows that high-quality early care and education programs can support children’s success and military readiness. A long-term study of over 1,300 children found that children in higher-quality child care were better prepared for school at age four and had significantly fewer behavior problems at age 15 than their peers.
When combined with high-quality preschool, child care can have an even greater impact on academic achievement. Studies have shown that quality preschool programs can improve student performance in school, boost graduation rates, deter youth from crime, and even reduce obesity rates by instilling healthy eating and exercise habits at a young age.
The benefits of high-quality early care and education are clear. However, Louisiana families still struggle to find quality child care that is affordable since the average annual cost of center-based child care for infants in Louisiana is nearly as expensive as in-state college tuition.
That is why retired military leaders like me support the bipartisan Ready Louisiana Coalition’s efforts to increase investments in quality, affordable early care and education in Louisiana.
These investments are essential to put Louisiana children on the path to success in school and careers, including in the military for those who choose to serve.
major general, USMC, retired