Parents, advocates optimistic after city and state promises to fund early childhood education

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) – The New Orleans City Council recently passed Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s budget for the upcoming year which included doubling funds for early childhood education. This comes as Governor John Bel Edwards also made funding early childhood education on of his campaign promises.

“The museum just opened Labor Day weekend and it is really an investment of the state and the city to say the children are more important to us.”

Sitting in the middle of beautiful City Park, the Louisiana Children’s Museum is a place where young children can learn to be inspired and be entertained. A fitting place to house the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children.

“We lead with data and research to inform policies that affect children in our state really birth to four. And we really fundamentally believe that a successful state starts with successful children,” says Libbie Sonnier-Netto with the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children.

New Orleans officials and Mayor Cantrell recently celebrated a milestone when the city council approved $3 million in allocated funds to expand access to quality early childcare and education.

“150 infants and toddlers in this city will get to go to a high-quality center for the first time. It is just thrilling,” says Sonnier-Netto. “It’s actually the first time this has ever happened in our state and we also believe it’s the first time a city has made this kind of investment.”

Sonnier-Netto says 80 percent development happens in the first three years of a child’s life.

“We have families that need to go to work and they need to prepare and make a better life for their children. And the only way they can do it is if they can find a trusted early development and early childhood education.”

Sonnier-Netto says the city funding is also a promise that the state will get behind the movement as well, as Governor Edwards has made clear in his efforts and lawmakers who in the last session put aside $20 million for that very purpose.

“And that was at the raising of the voices of people of New Orleans and people around the state.”

“It’s hard to find places to put your toddler with two working parents,” says parents Sarah and Michael Schaefer.

Sarah and Michael brought their two-year-old Wesley to the Children’s Museum over the weekend and say getting their son learning at a very young age is a top priority.

“I don’t know. I think we kind of wants a place that seems to really care about the development. You know, at his age, not just a place where they’re going to watch TV for eight hours a day but a place where they’re going to go and work on his numbers and colors and all those. His milestones.”

And the Schaefers say knowing the wheels are now in motion for their child and others like him give them hope for the future.

“We want him to be the best. We want him to be a great citizen of the state and of New Orleans and it’s great that they’re investing in that.”