[StBernard] EDITORIAL: The Advocate endorses Governor Blanco's proposed child care tax credit proposal

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Mon May 21 22:45:40 EDT 2007

EDITORIAL: The Advocate endorses Governor Blanco's child care tax credit proposal

Periodically, the press office will publish editorials and columns that feature Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco's work in various areas.

The Advocate: Our Views: Tax credits for child care
Published May 21, 2007
View the article online <http://www.2theadvocate.com>

The prevailing lesson in the cause of quality education during the past generation is that the earlier students begin to learn well, the better they tend to do throughout their education.

That is why Louisiana has begun to invest more heavily in public pre-kindergarten programs, so that more children can get an early start in learning the skills they'll need to thrive.

And that is why Louisiana must promote quality learning even earlier - in the child-care centers where so many of Louisiana's youngsters spend time before they begin pre-kindergarten.

Louisiana already has a system in place that's aimed at ensuring that child-care centers meet minimum health and safety standards. But enlightened public policy must do more than encourage such basic standards. Quality day care also means a mentally stimulating environment where children can thrive intellectually and emotionally.

To promote that goal, Gov. Kathleen Blanco has proposed a $44 million package of tax credits designed to enhance the quality of child care in Louisiana and give more parents access to the best child-care centers.

The state recently launched a quality rating system that assigns stars to child-care centers based on the quality of care provided. One star means the center is of the lowest quality, while five stars indicates the highest level of quality.

Under Blanco's plan, parents would get a tax credit that increases based on the quality rating of the child-care center they use. Quality child care costs more, and the credit is supposed to help more parents afford better care. Blanco's plan also would give a tax credit to providers to help cover the additional costs they incur as they work to achieve a higher rating. The plan includes a tax credit for child-care employees that rewards them as they increase their child-care credentials.

Additionally, employers who provide or subsidize child care for their employees or make a donation to a center would get a tax credit based on the quality of the center.

The Council for a Better Louisiana has endorsed the tax-credit package as a prudent investment in Louisiana's children.

"Each year North Carolina spends more than $200 million in state funds to subsidize quality child care," CABL notes in its briefing paper. "Louisiana, a little more than half the size of North Carolina, spends just $11 million.

"If we want the many at-risk children in Louisiana to be prepared to start school, we must use creative means to offer them the greatest opportunity to succeed."

CABL President Barry Erwin said that to achieve their ideal effect, the tax credits should be approved as a package so that elements of the plan can work together. That is something to keep in mind as the Legislature considers the governor's plan.

If these tax credits are to be hinged to a child-care rating system administered by the state, then state officials will need adequate manpower to routinely monitor child-care centers and give the standards teeth. Anything short of that would amount to little more than a tax giveaway.

Louisiana Department of Social Services Secretary Ann Williamson said that with existing staff and outside contractors, the state should be up to the task.

"Louisiana is engaging in groundbreaking work. No other state has approved such an innovative approach to early care and education finance," said Mildred Warner, an economist with Cornell University who focuses on child care. "My experience with economic development policy in other fields suggests that carefully crafted tax credits can work."

We agree with Warner and CABL that these tax credits are worth a try.


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