Guest blogger: Ohio to make it harder for struggling families to access high-quality childcare and preschool
Posted on 09/01/16
Update November 16, 2016: This blog post discusses the state’s plan to eliminate layering of early learning and childcare funding streams effective September 6, 2016. That decision was delayed, but the state plans to move forward with the plan next year.
Beginning September 6, Governor John Kasich’s administration plans to forbid Ohio’s early learning and childcare programs from layering state funding and federal dollars to purchase and provide comprehensive enrichment services for low-income children and families. Despite the administration’s claims, these funds are not paying for the same services at the same time, but are used to increase the quality of the schools and centers serving the youngest – and most disadvantaged – Ohio children. That’s why federal Head Start encourages layering funds and why it’s been done in Ohio for over a decade. Kasich’s decision to prohibit layering will make it hard for Ohio to get future federal grants to expand access and improve the quality of early learning and childcare programs.
Thousands of children in Ohio will be hurt by this policy shift. The funds are currently used to increase school quality for children living in poverty, allowing programs to be better than what state funding alone can provide. For example, federal funds are often layered with state funding to provide health and nutritional services, curriculum supports, teacher education, and smaller class sizes. Some programs also use the funds to hire and retain degreed teachers by providing more competitive wages – Ohio has early childhood wages so low that professionals must rely on public assistance. As a result of this policy shift, many programs that have previously partnered with Head Start will be forced to scale back or eliminate services that benefit not only economically disadvantaged children, but all children in the program who win when programs can leverage every state and federal dollar available to increase quality.
The shift is so outrageous that the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Akron Beacon Journal, the Toledo Blade, the regional president of PNC bank, and scores of other Ohio leaders have spoken out against the self-destructive move.
The state argues that state funds shifted from Head Start to other programs will increase enrollment. But increasing class sizes will not benefit our children. The lowering of educational qualifications and reductions in professionals’ already dismal wages will not help children who desperately need early support and intervention to be prepared for kindergarten, third grade reading, and a successful academic career. Limiting the ability to make the best use of all available funds will not help communities, like Cleveland and Dayton, that are investing substantial local resources into early learning to meet goals and achieve the outcomes that high-quality early learning provides.
This policy shift is a mistake that will hurt Ohio kids, reduce federal resources coming into Ohio, and allow our future workforce to fall further behind.
Our children need our help. You can make a difference by contacting your state legislators and Governor Kasich to voice your concerns. Find your state legislator’s contact information here and call Governor Kasich’s office at (614) 466-3555. Your kids – our kids – will thank you.
Jason is executive director of Groundwork Ohio.