Your recent editorial urging investments for young children is spot on. Unfortunately, in lean budget times children’s services appear to be a target for reductions.
One has only to compare the appropriations for the current fiscal year to the requested amounts for next year to realize that truth. The actual dollar difference between the years represents a reduction of more than $400 million. Also it should be noted that the total amount requested by the administration for young children is less than $1 billion, down from a high of $1.49 billion in 2009-2010. To place the zeroes in this for emphasis, that is roughly $500 million less for Louisiana’s children. This information is available on the Office of Planning and Budget website.
Despite the current initiative to improve kindergarten readiness, investments in early care and education have decreased each year since 2009-2010. The overall decrease is 16 percent in that time period.
Mental health and social-emotional development is the smallest investment and represents less than one-half of 1 percent of the early childhood budget. The request for next year is down 77 percent from the current year.
Children do not have legions of lobbyists at the Capitol representing their interests. We thank The Advocate for speaking up for them and hope that members of the Louisiana Legislature will realize that this is a “pay me now or pay me later” situation. The costs to deal with children who drop out of school, have untreated mental health conditions, and/or enter the juvenile justice system are much higher than the cost of preventive services when they are young.
Ken Hinrichs, executive director
Louisiana Partnership of Children and Families