NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Governor John Bel Edwards visited a local preschool to highlight the importance of early childhood education. Edwards toured Clara’s Little Lambs Preschool Academy in Algiers on the Federal City property.
He wants the state to invest millions more in early childhood education and believes state legislators will support his proposal in the soon to begin legislative session.
"This is an area where we have broad bipartisan agreement, so I don't anticipate any difficulty when it comes to funding early childhood education either this year or going forward,” said Edwards.
He has made more funding for early learning the top priority for his second-term in office.
Edwards’ budget proposal for the fiscal year which begins July 1 includes $25 million in new funding for early childhood education and the state has a grant involving millions from the federal government.
"A federal grant for $33 million that will be available over the next three years, in increments of $11 million each year, so I think we're doing what we need to do with respect to early childhood education, both increasing the number of slots available for our children but also increasing the amount per slot in exchange for demanding quality education,” said Edwards. “That's what we've seen here today by the way at Clara's Little Lambs, a lot of quality education going on and this is what we need to replicate all over the state of Louisiana."
State Rep. Raymond Garofalo, R-Chalmette, leads the House Education Committee.
"It’s hard for me as Chairman of Education to anticipate what’s going to happen in the Appropriations Committee but as far as supporting the issue of early childhood education, that along with dual enrollment, of course, teacher salaries, those are the three issues that we’re going to concentrate on I believe this session,” said Garofalo.
Rep. Gary Carter, a Democrat representing New Orleans, shares the governor’s optimism that the additional funding will become reality.
"Four years ago, when he took office we had a $2.3 billion deficit and now we have hundreds of millions in a surplus and the governor’s already committed to investing greatly in early education, so we’re optimistic that we’re actually going to get it done,” Carter said.
Early childhood development advocates applaud the governor’s efforts to increase state investment in preschoolers.
"To put at least $25 million in his budget, to say this is such a priority that we’re prioritizing children first in his budget is just thrilling for us at the La. Policy Institute for Children,” said Libbie Sonnier-Netto, executive director of the organization.
But she acknowledged that Louisiana has ground to make up in terms of the level of funding for early childhood education.
"We’re just really starting on our state investment related to children birth-to-four and we do very well for four year-olds, we serve 95 percent of our children that four, at-risk [group] in the state, but we serve less than 15 percent of our children birth-to-three and so we’ve got miles yet to go,” added Sonnier-Netto.