Picard Center keeps Louisiana's preschool efforts under the microscope

Apr 12, 2013

The Louisiana Department of Education is expected to announce later this month what school districts and organizations will be able to participate in a pilot program that aims to create a seamless education model from birth to age 5. It’s pat of a bill that was passed by lawmakers last year.

Credit Picard Center

Billy Stokes, executive director of the Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said the state received more than 20 applications. He doesn’t know how many will be funded. But it comes when Stokes’ organization just released a ten-year study that shows at-risk students who attended preschool outperformed their peers. Stokes said that academic trend line has carried through to middle school.

“The biggest takeaway of the decade is that children who come from low-income families can be helped early on with intervention, and that assistance they’re provided will stay with those children,” Stokes said.

Stokes is eager to start a new research cohort that will follow the youngest minds – birth to age 5. The pilot program is expected to roll out in July and run through mid-2015. Stokes said he hopes policymakers will ultimately come around to wholesale funding of public preschool.

“Every indication that we have is these programs will continue to work, and I think the remaining question is how aggressive will the state move to implement those programs?” Stokes said.

President Obama’s new budget bill calls for allocating $75 billion dollars over the next decade to expand public preschool. Picard says if it passes in Congress, Louisiana will be able to dovetail its efforts in pre-K with future federal initiatives.