Jun 18, 2020

Addition Brings Total Number of Ready Start Networks to 26 Statewide

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) this week approved 13 additional communities to pilot local strategies to increase access to and improve the quality of publicly-funded early childhood care and education. The action follows legislation passed in 2018 that allowed BESE to create and fund the pilot programs, which can now be found in 26 communities statewide.

These community-based pilot programs, called Ready Start Networks, are coalitions of individuals committed to creating and implementing a bold local vision for early childhood education. They will spend two years developing new local governance structures; assessing local demand for early care and education; providing resources and training to teachers to improve classroom quality; implementing fundraising strategies; and sharing their findings with state leaders to inform future policymaking.

The work will be guided by early childhood lead agencies in Allen, Assumption, Caddo, Caldwell, Lincoln, Sabine, St. Charles, St. Landry, St. Martin, Tangipahoa, Vermilion, Webster and West Baton Rouge parishes.

These communities join the initial seven Ready Start Networks approved in January 2019 and the additional six approved in August 2019. 

"Early childhood is the greatest educational challenge we face as a nation," said State Superintendent Dr. Cade Brumley. "I applaud our BESE members for helping ensure more children enter school kindergarten ready."

The Evolution of Community Networks
Prior to the passage of Act 3 in 2012, Louisiana had no statewide unified system of early childhood care and education. In 2013, the state introduced the early childhood community network model that is now in place. This model started with 13 pilot programs and expanded statewide by 2015.

Today, Louisiana has 66 early childhood community networks. Each network is led by a "lead agency," a state-approved entity, such as a school system or organization that serves as the point of contact for local care providers and as the liaison with the state education department. Currently, lead agencies serve a primarily administrative role, overseeing data collection and reporting, ensuring the observations that inform annual performance profiles are conducted twice a year, and coordinating enrollment..

The Next Phase of Local Responsibility
The Ready Start Network pilots represent the state's next phase of supporting local responsibility, taking a more collaborative approach to decision-making by establishing formal governance structures that support all early childhood care and education efforts in a community. Moreover, the pilot networks will be charged with fundraising to satisfy the local demand for seats and for implementing the supports and resources necessary to improve the quality of local sites.

The Louisiana Department of Education will work closely to support and guide the progress of the Ready Start Networks by offering expert resources, on-demand consultation and technical assistance, site visits, webinars and communication support. 

Ready Start Networks will report updates to the state education department throughout the course of the pilot. Over time, these findings will be publicly shared.

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