Sen. Bill Cassidy talks funding needs for early childhood education

Issue could come up in state legislative session

Early childhood education funding proposal

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., met with advocates of early childhood education Monday (April 15) to discuss requests for more federal funding.

The discussions took place at Beary Cherry Tree Child Development Center in Metairie.

"We need the federal funding to continue, we need the state to continue funding it and we even need local businesses. Everyone needs to do their part,” said Paula Polito, owner of the center.

Cassidy said investments in education pay big dividends.

"I tell folks you can pay me now, or you can pay me later, and so if we can actually have children set for success, they’re more likely to be successful,” said Cassidy to members of the media before he sat down with education advocates.

Democratic La. Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration says a nearly $9 million federal grant for early childhood education is running out soon.

Edwards’ Director of Communications Shauna Sanford issued the following statement to FOX 8 News:

“Funding for early childhood education is approximately $35 million, the same as it has been since Gov. Edwards took office. The only FY20 budget adjustment made in the Early Childhood area is a reduction of about $8.8 million in federal funds due to the expiration of the Pre-K Expansion Federal Grant which expires June 30, 2019, and will not be renewed. This was a four year grant which provided $8.8m per year from FY16 through FY19 to serve additional four-year olds under the LA-4 umbrella. Gov. Edwards is looking for additional funding to replace these lost dollars in the coming fiscal year. He is an advocate for early childhood education and has made it clear that increasing investments in early childhood education is his top priority for his second term.”

Polito said the mechanism by which businesses can help is already in place.

"A business can give $5,000. They get a dollar for dollar match on it, it's a refundable tax credit,” Polito stated.

Cassidy supports the idea.

"I’m a firm believer the private sector has to be involved. It has to be firmly rooted in the private sector,” said Cassidy.

Jefferson Parish’s school superintendent was also a part of the round-table type discussion.

"I think early childhood education, birth to four [years old] is the greatest educational challenge we'll face as a generation. Until we get this right and we invest in this appropriately our region, our state, our nation will never see the improvement that it truly needs to see,” said Dr. Cade Brumley.

Statewide there is a waiting list of over 3,000 families for early childhood education services.

"Oh, absolutely. So, we have kids on wait lists. We have kids that aren’t being served,” Brumley said.

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