Louisiana awarded $33 million grant to enhance early childhood education

La. Early Childhood grant

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Louisiana is 1 of 20 states to receive federal grant money to improve access to preschool programs.

The Louisiana Department of Education won a three-year grant totaling more than $33 million to make preschool more available to low-income children from birth to age 3.

The federal Preschool Development Grant will create at least 600 new openings to let such children attend preschool without any payment from their parents, according to a news release. Programs that provide infant care, meet teacher certification requirements and minimum quality rating scores will get priority.

The grant also will double the number of pilot program networks to increase access to high-quality early childhood education and will pay for community-based helpers to recruit and support families to apply for child care help.

Dr. Michelle Joubert, Early Childhood Director for Calcasieu Parish School Board said the grant will fill a funding gap that will ultimately benefit children in Southwest Louisiana.

“It is the first time that birth to 3 has ever been considered for a grant, so it’s going to be new to us,” said Joubert.

She said funding is always a big item on their agenda.

“Being the lead agency, we see parents that come in and they’re a lot of individuals that apply for child care assistance.”

Louisiana currently serves nearly all 4-year-old children. But the state only serves 7 percent of in-need children birth to age two and 33 percent of in-need children age three. Joubert said there is a definite need in our area.

“I would say in a day, we receive tons of calls from parents just asking what opportunities are available, and how do they access those opportunities...I would say in a day at least 20 to 25 calls,” Joubert said.

Statewide, the grant will create 600 new seats for children to attend preschool without any payment from their parents, Joubert says in our area, they are seeking funding for 203 seats.

"We currently serve 88 1-year olds, 134 2-year olds, 506 3-year olds, but we serve 1,178 4-year olds, so there is a true gap in the number of birth to 3 students that are being served in our community."

In addition, the grant will be used to establish and strengthen regional networks of people who provide approved child care services in their homes. She said the groundwork for where exactly the funding will go is still being laid out.

Early Childhood Education Providers
Early Childhood Education Providers (Source: KPLC)

“Now giving them an opportunity to provide those services in their centers..we’re providing professional development, teacher supports those types of things, I think it’s going to be awesome and beneficial throughout our community.”

Earlier grants in the program have brought Louisiana $40.3 million since 2014.

Joubert said they’re hoping to implement funding by the third quarter of 2020.

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