Today, state Senators Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Hearcel F. Craig (D-Columbus) highlighted Ohio’s Step Up to Quality Program, the impacts of improved kindergarten readiness and the need to increase pay for early childhood education workers during a press conference on the expanding access to and increasing the quality of early childhood education programs.
“I believe we can get to a point where we can fund and sustain child care for all of Ohio’s children,” said Senator Craig, who serves on the Step Up to Quality and Publicly Funded Child Care Committee. “I am encouraged by the investments our local communities are making in these crucial services so children are better prepared for school and their parents can get back to work. I hope the legislature will also continue to prioritize policies that will help create a functioning, accessible and high-quality child care infrastructure.”
During the press conference, Senator Fedor highlighted legislation she has introduced to address the child care needs in Ohio, including a resolution to urge Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act, and Senate Bill 318, which would require Ohio to establish a universal pre-k program in the event that Congress appropriates funds for its creation. According to the Center for Law and Social Policy, Ohio would receive an estimated $3.3 billion under the Build Back Better Act for investments in both child care and universal pre-k services and infrastructure.
Senator Fedor also announced that she will be reintroducing a joint resolution from the 132nd General Assembly that would amend the Ohio Constitution to require a universal preschool education program.
“Preschool provides stability and instruction to children at the most impressionable time in their lives. However, unaffordable or inaccessible childcare has long affected parents’ — particularly mothers’ — ability to balance their careers and families,” Senator Fedor said. “Until parents can return to work knowing that their children can be safely cared for, they will not be able to fully participate in the labor market. It is time for us to support working Ohioans and invest in our future generations.”
Senator Fedor and Senator Craig were joined by Will Petrik, budget researcher with Policy Matters Ohio, who discussed the policies needed to make childcare affordable for families. He also called for an increase in the state minimum wage and in the wages paid to child care workers – who are predominantly women and people of color – to help recruit retain child care workers.
“Together, we must help parents get back to work, make child care affordable for all who need it, and make sure child care workers are paid a wage that allows them to live with security and dignity,” Petrik said.
Early Childhood Education Alliance Director Elizabeth Hibbs also discussed the impact that high-quality early childhood education can have on children’s development and long-term mental health. She also discussed the financial burden parents face while trying to afford child care and preschool for their children.
“We, as a nation have an unprecedented opportunity to create a pathway toward a more equitable, sustainable and comprehensive early care and education system,” Hibbs said. “Research shows that 90% of the brain develops by the age of five. Those first five years of life are important, as they will impact the rest of a child's life, good or bad. Investments in quality early childhood care and education yield a 13% return on investment. Children who have received a quality early childhood education are more likely to graduate from high school, avoid teen pregnancy, and go on to acquire a college education or become skilled in a trade. Early childhood care and education is the cornerstone of society. Early childhood services and family support programs should be part of every economic development initiative because a society that invests in early childhood education saves money while strengthening its greatest resource, its people.”
Toledo City Council member Nick Komives provided insight on the impacts of income and poverty on families’ access to high-quality early childhood education programs and highlighted the impact that investments in kindergarten readiness can have on local communities.
“There is a significant gap in school readiness between poor children and those from moderate or higher income families,” Komives said. “Expanding affordable access to high-quality preschool will level the playing field, giving all of Toledo and Ohio’s children a chance to succeed.”
Watch the full press conference here