Five of the major candidates for governor (Jeff Landry continues to be AWOL) favor more state investments in early childhood education programs. And so, it turns out, do the vast majority of Louisiana voters. A new poll from Ready Louisiana, a nonpartisan coalition that includes the Louisiana Budget Project, has the data: 

According to the findings, voters see a connection between ensuring families have affordable child care and improving the economy, with over 95% saying early care and education is important to the economy and the ability of workers to provide for their families. “We have known for several years now that we need annual, recurring investments in early care and education to prevent economic losses due to workforce breakdowns and ensure that children are prepared for success in school and in life,” says Dr. Libbie Sonnier, executive director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, a founding member of the Ready Louisiana Coalition. “

Note: While the Legislature included $51.5 million in new state funding for early care and education programs, it wasn’t nearly enough to cover a $200 million shortfall left by the expiration of federal funding. Thousands of children will lose access to these crucial programs because of the funding gap. 

Hearing on Louisiana congressional maps delayed
The U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of Alabama’s racially gerrymandered congressional map gave hope that Louisiana’s effort to deny Black voters equal representation would soon be over. But a federal appeals court canceled a hearing scheduled for next week, meaning the redistricting battle could drag past the 2024 elections. The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Sam Karlin has the latest:

The decision effectively slows the process to creating a new majority-Black district in Louisiana, which is widely expected after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Alabama case, in which Black voters argued the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature discriminated against them based on race by creating congressional maps where only one of seven districts has a Black majority.

More federal funding needed to improve drinking water
The intrusion of saltwater into the Mississippi River, and the threat it poses to drinking water in New Orleans and surrounding areas, is the latest example of the challenges facing the U.S.’s aging water infrastructure. American water utilities would need to spend $625 billion over the next 20 years to fix, maintain, and improve the nation’s drinking water, according to a new assessment done by the Environmental Protection Agency. Pew’s Mollie Mills explains how more federal funding is needed to ensure that people have access to safe, clean water: 

That key finding of the survey, completed in 2021 and finalized in a report to Congress in September, represents a 33% increase, not accounting for inflation, from the almost $469 billion reported in the 2015 version of the Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment (DWINSA). The growth highlights a rapidly escalating need that far exceeds recent federal investments provided through the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Distribution and transmission needs, which include replacing or repairing deteriorating or aging pipelines, increased more than the other categories from the last DWINSA—from $310 billion to $421 billion, a 36% increase, not accounting for inflation.

Health care workers could strike 
More than 75,000 health care workers are poised to go on strike next week in what union leaders are calling the biggest health care strike in U.S. history. Like recent strikes in the film and auto industry, employees of Kaiser Permanente are demanding better wages and benefits. NPR’s Danielle Kaye explains why the Kaiser strike is different:

(T)he Kaiser strike threat is primarily driven by a colossal understaffing crisis. An exodus of health care workers due to COVID-19 – coupled with a surge in demand as patients return for routine care they had delayed because of the pandemic – has heightened the severity of the staffing shortage, according to Caroline Lucas, executive director of the union coalition. 

The staffing shortage has affected workers and patients alike. 

Pamela Reid, an optometrist at Kaiser’s Marlow Heights Medical Center in Maryland, said wait times for an appointment in her department ranged from five to 10 business days before the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, patients often have to wait two months, she said. And the number of optometrists across Kaiser’s service regions, Reid said, has dropped from about 70 to fewer than 50. 

Number of the Day
80% – Percentage of state voters that support dedicating an additional $115 million per year for the next 10 years to expand early care and education programs for working families. (Source: Ready Louisiana