The dust from the 2019 Louisiana primary election has settled, and the people of Louisiana will head back to the polls in November to pick our state’s next governor. At times, the 2019 election for governor has been personal and contentious. In the weeks to come, the election could become even more acrimonious.
However, a bright spot of agreement and consensus has already emerged in this election. Amidst the fighting, the state’s two leading candidates wholeheartedly agree on at least one policy issue, that is support for access to quality childcare for our youngest citizens.
John Bel Edwards and Eddie Rispone understand the importance of early learning. As is the case for all of us, they have seen the statistics and seen the importance in their own children. It is why they both supported increased funding for childcare in the primary and why they one-upped each other with bold ideas and big promises for the littlest Louisianians.
There are few choices as clear as the one to invest in early learning. This will create real access to the American dream for more people and ensure a skilled workforce that will drive Louisiana forward now and in the future.
A 2019 poll commissioned by the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children found that 62% of likely voters in Louisiana support increasing state funding for working families. Our leaders look to the will of the people to govern and voters want quality childcare and early childhood education for all our families.
Early childhood education has emerged as a defining issue in the 2019 gubernatorial election because it is a defining issue in the lives of millions of families in Louisiana. Republicans and Democrats in the Louisiana legislature worked together in 2019 to increase funding for early childhood education. Churches and pastors have long supported early childhood education. The business community and industry leaders recognize that investing early is investing well.
Louisiana can build upon a legacy of bipartisan cooperation and collaboration on early childhood education. Now, with the support of voters, business, faith leaders, and educators, our elected officials can take bold action for children, knowing we have their backs.
The late John Maginnis, respected Louisiana political analyst, wrote an editorial 20 years ago in The Shreveport Times entitled “Early Childhood Education is the Key to Future Success.” He noted “the worst of Louisiana’s education problems are beyond the reach of the best paid teachers and best run schools. The children who will create the most problems, unhappiness, and public expense… are lost before they get to Kindergarten. If learning starts in the cradle, children who get none of it at home in the first five years will never catch up once they get to school”. His astute observation lives on with us.
We need to apply the wisdom that “the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Although acting on this issue will not produce an immediate gain, it will produce a transformed Louisiana for our children and grandchildren.
The time to plant the tree and the time to invest in our youngest children is now.
Dr. Phillip Rozeman is a cardiologist from Shreveport, founder of Education’s Next Horizon, and a board member of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, CABL, PAR, Committee of 100, RESET Louisiana, and Step Forward.