What is City Seats?
New Orleans City Seats is a program that provides free, high-quality early childhood education to young children from low-income families in Orleans Parish.
- serves children ages 6 weeks through 3 years old from low-income families
- is administered by Agenda for Children through contracts with community partners, including over 20 early learning centers across the city
- is funded by the City of New Orleans
Since 2018, City Seats has significantly increased access to quality early childhood education for young children, growing from serving 50 children to over 400 today. In April 2022, New Orleans voters approved a millage that dedicates up to $21M annually for early care and education for the next twenty years. This funding will add an additional 600 seats to the program and with a potential dollar-for-dollar state match, City Seats may be able to serve as many as 2,000 children in the 2023-2024 school year. The millage will fund workforce development efforts and other wraparound services that directly support children, centers and teachers. Agenda for Children and our partners are diligently building the capacity of the early education infrastructure to serve more of New Orleans’ children.
Providers’ Frequently Asked Questions
Agenda for Children coordinates the City Seats program through its role as the co-lead agency for the New Orleans Early Education Network (NOEEN). The Louisiana Department of Education funds lead agencies in every parish to coordinate publicly-funded early care and education programs, including early learning centers, Head Start programs and schools. When the City of New Orleans created the City Seats program in 2017, City officials designated Agenda for Children and NOEEN as the program’s administrator due to its existing governance structure (through the NOEEN Steering Committee) and the systems NOEEN already had in place to coordinate funding, improve program quality and enroll children in centers and schools.
New Orleans Public Schools, as the co-lead agency, is a key partner in City Seats that is responsible for the application and enrollment processes, and helps administer the coordinated funding process, which helps to determine which programs receive public funds, and how many publicly funded seats they will be awarded.
Centers interested in applying for the seats must meet the following requirements:
- Only Type III early learning centers with a Performance Profile overall rating of Proficient, High-Proficient or Excellent are eligible to apply for these seats. Priority points are given to centers with the highest overall scores.
- Centers must agree to allow classroom teachers to receive ongoing coaching and participate in other professional development activities offered through the Child Care Resource & Referral Agency and other sources as opportunities become available.
- Centers must also have a demonstrated track record as active participants in all required NOEEN network activities, including CLASS observations, child count, GOLD checkpoints, and New Orleans Common Application Process (NCAP, formerly known as OneApp) where applicable.
- Centers must already be using high-quality (Tier 1) curricula with credentialed staff.
- Centers must agree to serve infants (children younger than 12 months old) through City Seats funding.
Our local City Seats program uses the same Coordinated Funding Request (CFR) process as many other publicly-funded seats in Orleans Parish. These details are outlined on our website. Seats are distributed as follows:
- Centers apply through an online CFR application that is typically released in October.
- Lead Agency staff and members of the NOEEN Coordinated Funding Request Sub-Committee review applications using a rubric that is designed to assess program quality, administrative capacity, responsiveness to network requests, demand, and ability to meet the needs of the community (including children with special needs, Dual Language Learners, and families experiencing hardships).
- Centers receive either a site visit (for centers not currently participating in B3 or City Seats programming) or a phone interview (for current B3 or City Seats programs). Reviewers use a rubric to assign a score to each interview or visit, and the scores from the application and visit/interview rubrics are combined for a final score.
- The review committee meets and makes draft recommendations for seat awards according to the following priority criteria: a) Sufficient to meet the needs of rising students, b) Prioritizing current provider programs, c) Responsive to citywide family demand, d) Emphasizing equity and stability across eligible applicants and e) Capacity to provide high-quality early care and education.
- The sub-committee’s seat allocation recommendations are then brought to the NOEEN Steering Committee for review and approval. City Seats recommendations are open to public comment.
- Once approved and final, seat allocations are provided to NOLA-PS for inclusion in the main round of the New Orleans Common Application Process (NCAP, formerly known as OneApp). Because seats run through the NCAP process, they follow the same process as other publicly-funded early care and education seats, such as Head Start and LA4.
Scholarships are $12,000/seat per year per child and are paid directly to the early learning program providing services on a monthly basis. The funding rate was established in 2017 for municipal seats using Head Start comparisons for similar services and scales.
City Seats provides a set of wraparound supports valued at ~$3,000 per child to help ensure that the child, the child’s family, and the program will be successful. Wraparound supports include infant and early childhood mental health consultation, teacher professional development, hearing, vision, and developmental screenings, and 1:1 coaching to classroom educators to support quality child-teacher interactions in each classroom.
In addition to the wraparound supports, City Seats also supports staff to manage other program components, including administrative data systems, monitoring, and an independent program evaluation conducted by LSU Human Development Center. There is also funding for enrollment support, workforce development, and facilities.
The City Seats program is a partnership between NOEEN and a diverse set of organizations, including 20 high-quality early learning centers, the City of New Orleans, Louisiana Department of Education, LSU Health New Orleans, New Orleans Speech and Hearing Center, TIKES Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation and Support, TrainingGrounds, and Tulane University School of Social Work.
- Agenda for Children convenes and works closely with providers, offering professional development for teachers and leaders, including in-person 1:1 coaching to all educators in the program and group workshops.
- The City of New Orleans provides program oversight and accountability.
- New Orleans Speech and Hearing Center conducts vision and hearing screenings.
- Tulane Mental Health Consultation Services (T-MHCS). T-MHCS works to support social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health of City Seats children and early education staff. They share information with other wrap-around services in the City Seats Program and City Seats staff in order to ensure that necessary referrals are made.
- LSU Health Sciences Center Human Development Center's role within the City Seats program is to promote access to early intervention services. LSU HDC supports families through each step of the referral process (screening, evaluation), and provides disability-related classroom support to teachers, and support for families. The goal is to increase accessibility, advocate for the child, and help foster inclusive learning.
- New Orleans Public Schools verifies families’ eligibility and conducts a coordinated enrollment process.
- Tulane School of Social Work (TSSW) City Seats Parent-Child Support Team (PCST): The TSSW City Seats Parent-Child Support Team works to support City Seats families experiencing barriers to accessing services, including housing, transportation, food insecurity, and other resources. The team also offers support to City Seats families if their child is not meeting the City Seats' attendance requirements.
- TrainingGrounds engages parents and offers professional development on brain architecture.
- Agenda for Children and community partners have created a new facilities fund to help cover some costs related to construction, renovation, and operations. The Facilities Fund will offer a mix of competitive small and large grants to support both expansion and new center construction. City funding will be supplemented with funding from J.P. Morgan Chase as part of the NOLA C.A.R.E.S. work. Our facilities advisor has met with over 30 stakeholders to inform the design of the process, and we are working with the Data Center to develop an analysis of early care and education access, supply, and capacity that will inform priorities for the facilities fund. We expect smaller grants to be distributed in the fall of 2022 and larger grants to follow at the beginning of 2023.
- Facilities Fund Grants will be distributed through Agenda for Children’s existing Early Childhood Opportunity (ECHO) fund process, which includes an online application and site visits for larger grants. Once awarded, recipients, sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Agenda for Children and provide reporting on how funds were used, including documentation of spending.
Many industries are challenged to find high-quality personnel right now and early childhood is no different. In the summer and fall of 2022, Agenda for Children, as the Orleans Parish Ready Start Network, convened over 30 local, state, and national partners through the Orleans Parish Early Care and Education Workforce Task Force. Despite the increase in demand, attention, and funding for early childhood, each year nearly one of every two early childhood educators in Louisiana leaves their classroom, and Orleans Parish early educators earn on average less than $25,000 per year. We have both an exodus of educators and a lack of incentives to retain veteran educators and for new educators to join the profession at a time when we are poised to significantly improve the early childhood landscape and increase the number of children we are able to serve.
The goal of the Workforce Task Force is to identify and prioritize current and prospective workforce strategies in order to determine funding priorities for sustaining, expanding, and piloting effective workforce development strategies. Specifically, the task force is:
- Identifying local and state efforts related to improving the early childhood educator ecosystems
- Identifying constraints and challenges and generating programmatic and systemic solutions; and
- Identifying and clarifying roles and responsibilities for the organizations involved in this work and related timelines.
The task force is creating a playbook that outlines local and statewide strategies and funding sources (including funding from the millage, the Louisiana Department of Education, and private philanthropy) to strengthen the early care and education ecosystem for educators. By winter 2023, NOEEN will begin funding strategies to support initiatives related to early childhood educator recruitment, professional development, career pathways, and compensation. Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected throughout the process to evaluate the effectiveness of each approach, and evaluation findings will be used to inform future funding priorities.
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More information on City Seats
Agenda for Children currently works with 20 providers within the City Seats program.