Founded in 2014 by Melanie Bronfin, J.D., the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that seeks to advance policies to ensure that Louisiana’s young children are ready for success in school and in life. To do so, it acts as an “independent source of data, research, and information for policymakers and stakeholders on issues related to early care and education for young children, birth to four, in Louisiana and their families.”
Dr. Libbie Sonnier, the nonprofit’s executive director, has overseen much of the organization’s growth in recent years. She started with LPIC after beginning her career as an early interventionist for young children with disabilities, motivated by the death of her three-year-old nephew who was born with special needs. Being at the right place at the right time, she applied through recruitment with LPIC and landed the job, excited to make a difference in the lives of children in need.
The policies that LPIC supports are to aid needed early care and education programs that help ensure that children are prepared for kindergarten, lessening the chance that the state will have to pay for remedial education for the child later.
“Right now, only 40 percent of Louisiana children arrive at kindergarten meeting critical benchmarks. 80 percent of brain development takes place from birth through age 3, and 90 percent by age 4, establishing a critical foundation for future success,” says Dr. Sonnier. “Early experiences affect development of the brain architecture, which provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health. Just like a weak foundation of a house, a weak foundation of the brain can be fixed, but it is difficult and therefore expensive to do so.”
LPIC realizes that at an early age, children begin to learn to regulate their emotions, solve problems, express their feelings, and organize their experiences and then use those skills when they arrive at school. This is what makes proper access to high-quality education and early childcare so imperative. Great education has positive effects on children, including fewer referrals for special education services, fewer grade retention, and an increased likelihood to graduate from high school. Oftentimes, attending children have been shown to achieve higher test scores and have improved social and emotional skills.
Last year, they wrapped up their 2022 Louisiana Child Care Parent Poll Survey, an annual survey that allows them to do just that by collecting data that will have a lasting impact on local communities. The goal of this initiative was to reach as many parents with young children across the state as possible so that they can share their stories about their experiences as they raise their children while balancing careers and other obligations. The collected responses from parents and caregivers will help shape advocacy work this year.
LPIC notes that while Louisiana received federal stimulus funding for childcare in 2022, the funds were a one-time contribution and wouldn’t help sustain childcare needs. Without further recurring state and federal investments, many families will continue to not have access to childcare.
In response to this, the organization recently assisted in achieving a historic investment for early care and education in Louisiana with the state legislature committing $84 million for our youngest learners. This is the most significant allocation of state dollars in early care and education in the state’s history.
Over the years, LPIC has made great strides toward bettering access to resources for children and their families. They helped create new revenue streams for early care and education by advocating for the allocation of 25 percent of sports betting revenues and 50 percent of NBA Pelicans specialty license plate revenues to the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund.
Additionally, in partnership with Agenda for Children, they helped raise and distribute over $300,000 to childcare providers affected by Hurricane Ida. These funds would help them with short-term recovery in order to meet the needs of families as they recovered from the hurricane in partnership with Agenda for Children.
To get involved and support education and care for our community’s children, visit policyinstitutela.org.