(Shreveport, LA) Legislators and business leaders from across the region joined United Way of Northwest Louisiana at an event at Providence House Child Development Center (PHCDC) in recognition of the third annual “Louisiana Early Ed Week,” sponsored by Entergy Corporation.

Held in partnership between the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children (LPIC) and the Louisiana Association of United Ways (LAUW), along with generous support from Entergy Corporation and Jones Walker LLP, Louisiana Early Ed Week is an opportunity to further educate local policy makers and business leaders on the critical and ongoing need to increase and improve access to quality early care and education for children, birth through age four, throughout the state.

This event was one of seven held across Louisiana between February 7-14, during which local leaders gather at Type III Child Care Centers to see firsthand what quality early care and education looks like, and to gain a greater understanding about the importance of providing access to these centers and education offerings for the state’s youngest children. In an op-ed published Thursday to The Shreveport Times, Dr. Phillip Rozeman physician and board member of the LPIC said, “Although many families have a parent, a loving family member or can afford quality childcare and education, many families with young children do not have these same resources. The cost of quality childcare for many middle-class families exceeds the ability of those families to pay.”

“The need for quality and affordable early childcare for ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) families is urgent,” said Dr. Bruce Willson, President & CEO of United Way of Northwest Louisiana.  “This was a great time for our legislators, business leaders and practitioners in the field of early education to come together to be better informed and challenged around this issue.”

Following brief introductory remarks, attendees were given a tour of PHCDC from Shelly Marshall, chief administrative officer. The highlight, however, came after the tour when the legislators and business leaders in attendance had the opportunity to interact with and read to the children, participate in a volunteer activity, or engage in a Question and Answer session with Tiffany Harris, a parent whose child attends PHCDC, and Libbie Sonnier-Netto, Ph.D., Executive Director of LPIC.

“We are heartened by recent wins for early childcare and education across Louisiana, however more can – and must- be done,” said Dr. Sonnier-Netto. “While nearly 90% of four-year-olds in Louisiana can access a free quality Pre-K slot, quality early care and education is underfunded and out of reach for most low-income, working families with infants and toddlers. We need to continue to invest in this issue in order to close the gap and ensure that all children under four in our state have access to quality early care and education.”

“This week brings the much-needed focus and attention to the need for high-quality, early childcare in our community,” said Verni Howard, Executive Director, Providence House. “If we fail to introduce words, language and music to children at the earliest age, we fail to build a hopeful community or a robust economy. Education is critical to the future of our city.”

“United Ways throughout Louisiana work to ensure all children reach their full potential and access to high-quality childcare provides a strong start while supporting parents in the workforce,” said Sarah Berthelot, President and CEO of the Louisiana Association of United Ways. “Louisiana families work hard to ensure adequate income and a better future for their children. Louisiana ALICE households unable to earn enough to meet a basic household budget represents 45% of homes led by parent workers with children. Workers with young children make hard choices regularly between quality childcare and other basics like food for the table.  Louisiana’s investments to increase funding and access helps our children and working parents reach their potential.”

To learn more about early child care and education in Louisiana, please visit PolicyInstituteLA.com. Additionally, you can join in the conversation by using #LAEarlyEdWeek on social media channels.