Stopping Traffic for Pre-K

In Baton Rouge last week, young Louisiana protesters stopped traffic to draw attention to funding cuts for pre-kindergarten programs. Local television station WWLTV Channel 4 ran a segment showing children holding signs that read “Save our Pre-K” while standing in the street in the mid-day heat.

Adult leaders of the Tambourine and Fan organization, a group that teaches children about culture and heritage as well as about civil rights, leadership, and political engagement, said they organized the protest because of the lack of quality early education in Baton Rouge.

<p>Louisiana’s state-funded program, called LA 4, <a href="http://nieer.org/yearbook/pdf/yearbook_LA.pdf">serves about 15,000 4-year-olds</a> and is supposed to be available to all who qualify for free-and-reduced price lunch. &nbsp;In 2008, the state mandated voluntary pre-K for all 4-year-olds, regardless of family income, starting in 2013. But Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal <a href="http://www.preknow.org/leadershipmatters/LA.cfm">proposed a cut of $797,000</a> for the 2011 fiscal year, representing a 0.8 percent reduction, according to Leadership Matters, a new resource by Pre-K Now for tracking states’ pre-K budgets.</p><p>In response to the protest, Paul Vallas, Superintendent of the Recovery School District of Louisiana, told WWLTV he fully supports early education, and even though the state cut funding, he is still mandated to provide it:</p><p>"…they [Louisiana Legislature] have a gold-plated program in terms of the mandates but then they are funding the program as if it is a program for paupers."</p><p>With Louisiana’s session ending in just a few weeks, Vallas said, there isn’t much time to restore the funding.</p>    <p>&nbsp;</p>

Author:

Laura Bornfreund is director of early & elementary education policy with the Education Policy program and co-director of the Family Centered Social Policy program at New America. She leads a team of writers and analysts working on new ideas for improving children’s birth-through-third grade learning experiences.