Investing in early childhood

Investing in early childhood

The importance of high-quality care and education for the youngest Louisianans (birth to 3) is well known and hard to overstate. More than 80 percent of brain development occurs during these critical first months of life, and far too many of Louisiana’s youngest residents now lack access to the care they need. It behooves the state to ensure all parents have access to affordable quality care. To help address the problem, the new Early Childhood Care and Education Commission, received a report showing that it would cost $86 million per year to ensure that most young children from low-income families have the support they need. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports:

The spending recommendations for what officials call “LA B-to-3” would gradually provide care for 114,000 of 173,000 children in need and who are generally eligible for Medicaid. About 22,000 children are covered now. How to bolster early childhood education has won a lot of attention lately, and some advocates hope that, if the Legislature legalizes sports betting this year, the proceeds will be earmarked for pre-kindergarten services. (…) Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, co-chair of the commission, said while the $86 million is a “huge number” it is needed to get the state where it needs to be, and has been well-received in discussions with a variety of groups. “They are about us being a real player nationwide, not playing catch-up like we have been doing for so long,” Mizell said. “We have a great argument.” She said, “We know the outcomes within a generation could change the look of the state.”


Where kids live matters
Ample evidence suggests that where a child grows up — down to the block — has a marked effect on his or her life outcomes, including earnings, education and overall health. “Moving to Work” (MTW), a federal housing program, aims to improve outcomes for those in need by helping them relocate to neighborhoods where more opportunities exist. But according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the program is not living up to its potential, and options in the program billed as offering flexibility for families are actually responsible for decreasing the number of families the program serves. Will Fischer of CBPP suggests policy remedies to increase opportunities for those in need:

One of MTW’s statutory goals is to expand housing choice for low-income families, (…) But overall, MTW agencies haven’t been more effective at enabling families to move to low-poverty neighborhoods than similar non-MTW agencies (…). In addition, MTW agencies use their flexibility to divert hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the voucher program, a practice that each year denies tens of thousands of families access to the opportunities that vouchers can provide. (…) Rather than add even more agencies to MTW, policymakers should give all state and local agencies stronger incentives to help families move to high-opportunity neighborhoods and strengthen their available tools to do so. Most immediately, the President and Congress should ensure that 2019 HUD funding includes the new housing mobility demonstration (as the draft appropriations bill that House and Senate negotiators crafted does).


Teaching increasingly doesn’t pay
In Louisiana and across the country, teaching has lost ground to other professions when it comes to pay. Teacher strikes and students protests in other states have brought local and national attention to the problems of underfunded public schools. A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute’s Sylvia Allegretto and Lawrence Mishel details the teacher “pay penalty.” As The Washington Post’s Andrew Van Dam explains, shrinking pay for educators puts this vital profession at risk:

In the early 1990s, when today’s veteran educators were starting out, public-school teachers and support staff pulled in above-average paychecks in 26 of the 42 states for which the Labor Department had comparable data. By 2017, their earnings topped the average in just one state, Rhode Island. Over that time, public-school teacher and staff earnings fell relative to the average worker in all 42 of those states. (…) The only other comparable industries in terms of employment and salaries to see similar pay slides include delivery drivers, printers, electronics retailers and warehouse workers — industries which were reshaped by the rise of the internet.


After the shutdown, the government’s lowest paid workers are left in the lurch
The federal government is reopened — for now, and Congress has authorized back pay for people employed directly by the federal government who missed paychecks during the shutdown. But unlike the majority of affected government workers, low wage contractors — including janitors, security guards, and foodservice workers — do not enjoy the protections of back pay and reclaimed sick days. Now, the lowest paid workers hurt by the shutdown continue to face uncertainty as they struggle to manage already fragile household budgets, an experience all too familiar to low-income households across the country. What little reserves these households had accumulated have been depleted as they wait to receive a paycheck and try to replenish hard-won savings. Danielle Paquette of the Washington Post has the story.

Unlike the 800,000 career public servants who are slated to receive full back pay over the next week or so, the contractors who clean, guard, cook and shoulder other jobs at federal workplaces aren’t legally guaranteed a single penny. They’re also among the lowest-paid laborers in the government economy, generally earning between $450 and $650 weekly, union leaders say. And even as they began returning to work Monday, they were bracing for more pain. President Trump’s new deadline for Congress to earmark funding for his proposed border wall is Feb. 15. Agencies could close again if no deal is reached. (…) The push for compensation comes at a time when only 4 in 10 Americans say they could cobble together $400 when faced with an emergency expense, according to the latest Federal Reserve data.


Number of the Day
11.1 percent – Average compensation penalty (including benefits) that a professional faced when becoming a teacher in 2017, compared to other jobs available to people with comparable education and training. Not counting benefits, teachers took pay cut of 18.7 percent by entering the profession. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)