BATON ROUGE, La. - The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education today approved a plan to increase access to affordable child care in Louisiana and to raise funding levels for qualified child care centers and teachers. The plan will increase the stipend parents are able to pay publicly-funded child care centers by up to 250 percent, making child care more affordable for families and allowing centers to increase teacher pay and improve teacher training. The plan, part of the statewide effort to unify the system of early childhood education and to prepare all children for kindergarten, will also put to an end the longstanding practice of withholding child care funds when a parent or guardian loses a job.

The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) provides federal funds to help low-income families pay for child care while working or attending school or training. Several barriers have prevented low-income families from obtaining quality child care, however:
  • The CCAP stipend for most Louisiana families averages only 28 percent of the amount provided for pre-K programs, often making child care unaffordable for the poor.
  • Low payments also lead to low teacher pay, a barrier to attracting and keeping trained educators.
  • Families with children in child care lose CCAP payments immediately if a parent loses a job.
The BESE-approved plan will change these conditions:
  • With most providers in the state charging $130 a week or less, most low-income families are still paying $95 of that out-of-pocket in co-payments and provider charges. The approved policy reduces that out-of-pocket cost to $37 a week, with the state raising its payment from $35 to $93 a week. For a low-income family below the poverty level, a co-payment would no longer be required. Families above the poverty level would have co-payments drastically reduced.
  • The increase in funding will come from excess funds available within in the Child Care Development Fund grant. Due to past CCAP policy changes, a surplus accrued. It is anticipated that the recommended spending level can be maintained.
  • Under the approved policy, families will remain eligible for CCAP for at least one year regardless of changes in work or school status. No family would have their CCAP payments stop should they need to find a new job. Payments will continue through the entire year of eligibility ensuring children are able to attend for a full school year.
"A program for children from low-income families cannot be prohibitively expensive for low-income parents," said State Superintendent John White. "By increasing stipends to families, we will also allow increase teacher pay and training. Teaching in a child care center should not be minimum wage work."
For providers, the Department is increasing child care assistance to nearly $4,000 a year for those providers implementing Act 3 of the 2012 Legislative Session to better ensure that teachers being held to higher standards are paid appropriately.

With funding being reduced by 60 percent since 2008-2009, eligibility criteria increased, making it harder for families to qualify and less affordable for those that do. The result has been a growing carryover in the federal funding, which will now be used to support these changes.

"Not only will these child care assistance improvements assist working families and those attending school, they will help improve the quality of child care in Louisiana," said Dr. Tony Recasner, CEO for Agenda for Children. "The funding and eligibility changes will greatly enhance a center's ability to provide high-quality care and education, develop a professional workforce, and improve child outcomes through continuous care and education."
"The Child Care Association of Louisiana appreciates the efforts of John White and the Department of Education in their bold steps to stabilize the Child Care Assistance Program payments," said Alan Young, Legislative Chair for the Child Care Association of Louisiana. "This appropriate allocation of CCAP funding will allow our Early Learning Education facilities to improve the educational standards and teacher compensation. We believe that this first step in normalizing CCAP tuition will ensure our most at risk children will receive the highest quality early childhood education."
"The unification efforts of Act 3 (2012) are setting common expectations for child care, Head Start, and Pre-K; however, child care providers have been disadvantaged due to limited resources," said Melanie Bronfin, Executive Director of Policy for Institute for Children. "The changes to child care assistance will provide much needed financial support to work towards higher standards.  These improvements are a dramatic, positive step forward for child care in Louisiana and for working families in need of child care assistance."
"The increase in CCAP rates will make a difference in families being able to choose a high quality center where their children can learn rather than just receiving babysitting services. Many times a single parent comes in to enroll under CCAP and has shared excitement with their child only find the copay is beyond their reach. They then leave to attend an unlicensed, unregulated home because the center was still unaffordable," said Pam Miley, Director of Little Red Schoolhouse in Covington and a Child Care Association of Louisiana Board Member.
"The Improvements to CCAP is one of the most important steps moving forward to improve the education system in our state. A subsidy rate increase and stability of family eligibility means providers can serve families better, improve and maintain quality early childhood programs, and focus on kindergarten readiness," said Dominique Cook, JUMPSTART Child Development Center.
The Early Childhood Advisory Council approved the policy recommendations in July. BESE approved the policy recommendations this week. The changes should go into effect in winter 2016.
For more information on the improvements to CCAP, please click here.

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