A massive gap in early childhood funding

A massive gap in early childhood funding

Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Legislature have made modest progress in recent years to increase access to affordable, high-quality early care and education programs for families that struggle to make ends meet. But the current (and proposed) state investments still fall far short of what’s needed to serve all Louisiana children, from birth through 3, who need services. On Thursday, a panel of state child care experts said the Legislature should provide $115 million a year for the next decade – $1.2 billion overall – to expand access and boost wages for child care workers who earn, on average, less than $20,000 per year. Will Sentell reports for The Advocate: 

The childcare industry is beset by challenges, including the “shocking” fact that teachers are paid less than $20,000 per year, or around $9.79 per hour. … However, even in a session marked by a heavy influx of federal aid and higher-than-expected state revenue generating support for anything close to $115 million annually will be a major challenge.

Dedicating money to our children is timely. The monthly child poverty rate has increased to 17% nationwide, the highest rate since 2020, the Center on Poverty & Social Policy at Columbia University reports, a result of the expiration of the expanded Child Tax Credit.

The 4.9 percentage point (41 percent) increase in [child] poverty represents 3.7 million more children in poverty due to the expiration of the monthly Child Tax Credit payments. Latino and Black children experienced the largest percentage-point increases in poverty. … Following the conclusion of tax season, however, it is likely that monthly child poverty rates could be persistently high through the rest of 2022 absent the continuation of an expanded Child Tax Credit, further policy interventions, or strong improvements in labor market outcomes.

Medicaid at risk for America’s kids
When Covid hit, Congress acted quickly to protect Medicaid access across America to help reduce the number of people in need showing up to
overburdened hospitals without health coverage. But when the federal Public Health Emergency declaration ends, those protections will go away, and states will have to act carefully to ensure that paperwork problems don’t leave millions without health care access. A new report by Joan Alker and Tricia Brooks at the Georgetown Center for Children and Families estimates that 6.7 million children are at high risk of becoming uninsured following the termination of the federal public health emergency. The group recommends that governors make protection of health coverage a priority.

Lack of health insurance has serious repercussions on family financial security and child development and school success. It is also important to note that research indicates that children in families of color – Black and Latino families – are more likely to experience coverage churn or gaps in coverage … because states run Medicaid and CHIP, it will be up to the nation’s Governors to ensure that millions of children don’t lose coverage during this process.

Not goodbye, but see you later
The Legislature expects to wrap up its decennial redistricting session on Friday, with new political maps for Congress, the state House and Senate, the state school board, the Public Service Commission that look very similar to the current maps. The Advertiser’s Greg Hilburn explains:

In the end, the new maps will look very much like the ones they’re replacing with no additional majority-minority districts despite an increase in Black population to 33%. Republican House Speaker Pro-tem Tanner Magee of Houma presented the likely congressional map as keeping the “status quo,” which could be said across the board.

The status quo maps are a disappointment to Democrats, who were hoping to secure an additional majority-minority seat to reflect Louisiana’s changing demographics. But the battle is far from finished, as The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports on what comes next:

One is a possible veto by Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat. The other is an expected court challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union and/or the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund Inc., arguing that lawmakers violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by not creating enough Black-majority districts.

The Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue details the strategy some House Democrats took this week to potentially bolster a future lawsuit. Rep. Cedric Glover of Shreveport brought a number of amendments that would have added a majority-Black district to a Republican House map proposal. The failed amendments could later help show that the map fails to satisfy the federal Voting Rights Act.

Glover’s repeated attempts to pass a different version of the Louisiana House map may not be about gaining the Legislature’s approval, which was always going to be politically difficult. It could be a strategy for strengthening a legal argument against the map that wins final approval from lawmakers. “Your bills present the strongest argument against the success of [the favored Republicans’ House map] in the courts,” Rep. Wilford Carter, a Black Democrat from Lake Charles, told Glover…. “I noticed on all the [Glover] amendments that all the White representatives was against it and all the Black representatives was for it,” Carter said to Glover. “Not passing your amendment put the question squarely to the courts: Are we going to allow racial decisions to determine the makeup of the House of Representatives of the state of Louisiana?

Prison is not treatment
Police arrested fewer people in the United States in 2019 than they did in 2009. But, according to a new report from Jake Horowitz and Julie Wertheimer of the Pew Charitable Trusts, America continued to jail staggeringly high numbers of people for drug possession while offering few or no substance use treatment options in prisons and jails. In Louisiana, the data offer signs of hope: the number of people incarcerated in the Bayou State for drug possession fell by 54% over that time period.

Fifty years of arresting and incarcerating people for drug offenses has produced poor public health and safety outcomes for society, particularly communities of color. And although the shifts in drug enforcement patterns in recent decades have reduced some racial disparities and decreased prison populations, they have done little to mitigate the public health consequences of drug misuse. Many people incarcerated across the country have substance use disorders, but few receive treatment. And drug mortality rates in both jails and prisons have continued to climb. More reforms are needed to further cut states’ reliance on arrest and incarceration for addressing substance misuse and to ensure a more equitable criminal legal system for all Americans.

While racial disparities in drug arrests have declined, Black people were still twice as likely as their white peers to be arrested for drug possession in 2019. 

Number of the Day
$40.5 million– The amount Louisianians bet on online sports books in the first four days after sports betting became legal in most Louisiana parishes (Source: Nola.com)