Ohio’s littlest learners make big strides
Communities across Ohio are recognizing the vital need for preschool as an early learning foundation and coming up with innovative solutions to deliver quality programs to families. This election day, Cincinnati and Dayton approved measures that will dramatically expand access, and Cleveland extended a 2012 levy that will add slots to existing programs.
While some states offer free preschool to all, Ohio has yet to implement a statewide program. Some public schools have free preschool programs, but for many Ohio families, center-based programs remain out of reach. The median cost exceeds $8,700 a year for a single child, nearly 17.8 percent of the typical household's budget. That leaves families to cobble together resources from different funding streams to meet the cost - a prospect that is fraught with challenges, as Policy Matters Ohio has reported.
This year, Cincinnati and Dayton took on the challenge for their youngest residents through successful ballot measures that make preschool affordable to all. Cincinnati approved a $48 million per year school levy that earmarks $15 million to subsidize two years of preschool for children at 200 percent of the poverty line or below, or about 6,000 3- and 4-year-olds. Dayton approved a 0.25 percent income tax increase that expands access to affordable preschool for all city 4-year-olds.
Cleveland added 1,200 new preschool slots on its incremental path to bring access to high quality preschool to all. Issue 108 renewed a 2012 levy to extend funding to the public schools and support preschool for some. Currently about one-third of Cleveland preschool-aged children have access to a highly rated program.
Not only do preschools with good wraparound childcare support children's development, they also promote financial stability for families by enabling parents to work. Ohio should follow Cincinnati and Dayton's lead and implement robust funding and infrastructure investments to make quality preschool available to all.
Michael Shields is a Policy Matters Ohio researcher