BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved a plan Wednesday to increase access to affordable child care in Louisiana and to raise funding levels for qualified child care centers and teachers.
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 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.
"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 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.