NOEEN City Seats
In New Orleans, an estimated 75% of low-income children under four don’t have access to high-quality early childhood education.
To address this need, the City of New Orleans, the Louisiana Department of Education, and members of the early education community have worked together since 2017 to provide access to free, quality care through the New Orleans Early Education Network (NOEEN) City Seats program. In 2022, an early childhood care and education millage was passed investing over $21 million annually. New Orleans now leads the nation with one of the only voter-approved investments in early childhood education specific to infants and toddlers.
Seats are contracted with 22 Type III centers. Located across New Orleans, they agree to meet quality standards and participate in professional development and ongoing monitoring.
General City Seats Frequently Asked Questions
Who runs the NOEEN City Seats program and why?
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.
What are the goals of City Seats?
The NOEEN City Seats Program is driven by three goals:
- To increase access to early learning for those with the greatest need in Orleans Parish;
- To improve the overall quality of participating early learning centers in Orleans Parish;
- To provide wraparound supports to caregivers and families in Orleans Parish.
Why do we need NOEEN City Seats?
Children in New Orleans will succeed with increased access to early childhood education. New Orleans’ workforce and the economy will thrive with increased access to early childhood education. Currently, less than a quarter of low-income children three and under have access to any publicly-funded early childhood education in Orleans Parish. There is a tremendous need for affordable childcare options that serve low-income infants, toddlers, and three-year-olds in New Orleans. 71% of young children in New Orleans live in families where all available parents work and most the parents struggle to find affordable, high-quality early childhood programs for their young children. United Way’s recent ALICE report found that childcare is the single largest expense for low-income working families in Orleans Parish.
What Has City Seats accomplished?
NOEEN City Seats is evaluated by the Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center to ensure high-quality programming is delivered. Among many findings, the evaluations to date have found that NOEEN and partners have successfully increased access to early care and education in New Orleans and also increased quality in child care centers. In 2021, the Louisiana Department of Education matched private and public investment in the NOEEN City Seats program and doubled the program’s size.
- Year One Findings (2018-2019)
- Year Two Findings (2019-2020)
- Year Three Findings (2020-2021)
- Year Four Findings (2021-2022) Coming Soon
At what rate(s) do you pay centers for seats? How did you decide the rate(s)?
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 scale.
Why does child care cost so much?
Child care is unaffordable for many families in New Orleans, especially for single parents and families with multiple young children. In contrast to Kindergarten through 12th grade, which is not only free but also permits higher teacher-to-student ratios, quality early care and education requires low teacher-to-child ratios. This greatly increases the cost, as early learning programs need to hire many more teachers than an elementary school would to serve the same number of children, yet they don’t have the same stable sources of fun.
A well-functioning program also requires comprehensive support for kids and families so that all children enter Kindergarten ready for school. Program supports include things like professional development and coaching for the educators, parenting support and training, health and developmental screenings, and more. Early childhood education is also a unique opportunity for identifying children in need of early intervention through vision, hearing, and developmental screenings. These wraparound supports are essential to ensuring children and families are as prepared as possible to enter Kindergarten.
How many children are eligible for the City Seats program? How many do you currently serve?
There are over 8,300 children in Orleans Parish who are eligible for the program but are not currently being served. We serve a total of 400 children with the city and matching State funding: 39 infants, 87 one-year-olds, 127 two-year-olds, and 147 three-year-olds. In the summer of 2023, this number will be drastically increased to serve as many as 2,000 children in the 2023-2024 school year.
Which organizations does city seats work with?
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.
What wraparound supports does each organization offer?
- 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 requirement.
- TrainingGrounds engages parents and offers professional development on brain architecture.
Are there any funds for child care facilities?
- 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.
What additional needs for providers are supported with City Seats program funding?
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.
How will workforce funding from the millage be used?
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.
Where do administrative costs go?
Administrative costs are used primarily for staffing (approximately nine team members spend a portion of their time on this program), including staff to administer the program, provide financial and programmatic oversight, and also support indirect operating costs. In addition, Agenda for Children is required to use a portion of these funds to contract with an independent external program evaluator. Total administrative costs are less than 3% of the overall funding, well below national averages for other community millage efforts.
What does the NOEEN steering committee do?
The NOEEN steering committee is a collaborative body that represents child care providers, city officials, and more. They are responsible for guiding strategic decisions for all publicly funded seats in Orleans Parish. They also approve the Coordinated Funding Request recommendations, advise on how to improve the enrollment system, and work with the City of New Orleans and the program administrators to approve an annual spending plan.
The New Orleans Early Education Network (NOEEN) is a collaborative partnership between every publicly-funded early education provider in the city. NOEEN is managed by Agenda for Children and New Orleans Public Schools.
NOEEN’s work is guided by a Steering Committee comprised of representatives from schools, centers, the City of New Orleans, Head Start and Early Steps. All Steering Committee meetings are open to the public and information about past and future meetings is available to the public. Learn more.
How is NOLA Public Schools involved?
NOLA Public Schools is the co-lead agency for NOEEN. They manage the enrollment process (NCAP, formerly One App) and help families understand their publicly-funded early care and education options, as well as how to apply for those seats. NOLA Public Schools also provides special education identification and special education services for children aged three to five regardless of whether they attend an early learning program.
What are some of the accountability mechanisms for the NOEEN City Seats program?
There are numerous accountability mechanisms in place to ensure Agenda for Children and our partners comply with the obligations set forth in the Orleans Parish early care and education millage. These mechanisms include obligations to the City of New Orleans and New Orleans City Council to provide monthly and annual reports. Additionally, Agenda for Children and NOLA-PS' roles as a Co-Lead Agency means that the Louisiana Department of Education provides oversight of network activities, including the enrollment process, observations, and funding requests.
Why does the program contract with child care centers? Why not work directly with schools instead?
The City Seats program serves children ages 0-3. Most K-12 schools legally cannot serve children under the age of four because they are not licensed to do so. Two of our program partners-Hoffman Early Learning Center and ReNEW-are licensed child care centers that are affiliated with charter management organizations.
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More information on City Seats
Founder, Agenda for Children
Judy Watts was a fierce child advocate who co-founded Agenda for Children to make Louisiana a state where all children can thrive. She was a commited anti-racist who worked closely with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. Under her leadership, Agenda made major impacts on early care and education, child welfare, juvenile justice and children’s health care access.
With partners, Agenda for Children will successfully expand the NOEEN City Seats program to serve as many as 2,000 children in the 2023-2024 school year. This is one of the only municipally based scholarship programs for infants and toddlers in the nation.