Strengthening Child Care Now is Crucial for Louisiana's Future
Maintaining a commitment to child care is critical in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic
by Brigadier General (Ret.) Thomas Beron, U.S. Army
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a host of challenges, the likes of which haven’t been seen by most of us in our lifetimes. Furthermore, it has also served to spotlight and worsen existing problems, such as our nation’s child care crisis.
Research from the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children (LPIC) found that, even before this crisis, 65 percent of working parents waiting to receive financial assistance through the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) reported having to borrow money to afford child care. The lack of readily available, high-quality early care and education for young children, in turn, causes working parents to pull focus from their jobs and young children to miss out on experiences to potentially help put them on a better educational and life path.
As a retired Army general, this matters to me from a national-security perspective. The positive outcomes that can result from high-quality early childhood experiences can help our young people pursue their preferred career, including military service if they so choose. Right now, that’s a problem, as a staggering 71 percent of American young people cannot qualify for military service. As a recent report from Council for a Strong America highlights, here in Louisiana, the number is even higher at 75 percent.
There are a variety of reasons for ineligibility, including educational problems, involvement with drugs, or a criminal record. The positive impacts that arise from high-quality early childhood experiences, including social-emotional skills, stronger early literacy, and long-term avoidance of crime, can help prevent many of those factors.
Now, with widespread telework and unemployment in the age of COVID-19, many parents are forced to stay home with their children, which threatens the existence of child care providers, most of which are small businesses. At the same time, essential workers and first responders still need to be able to access care for their children as they do the important work of keeping our communities safe and healthy in the face of the pandemic.
Understanding the difficult choices that the state legislature will make in the wake of COVID-19, I urge lawmakers to provide $25 million in state funding for CCAP. Even before the crisis, high-quality affordable care was out of reach for too many families. Providing robust funding for CCAP will ensure that hardworking families can access high-quality, affordable care and that our state’s children will be on a path to success.
For the sake of the young children today who will grow up to be Louisiana’s future teachers, doctors, servicemembers, and more, we must continue to support investments in high-quality child care.
Thomas Beron is a retired U.S. Army Brigadier General and member of Mission: Readiness. He is a resident of Louisiana.
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