As evidence demonstrates that investments in early-childhood produce better outcomes in adulthood, one Ohio group wants to make sure that Ohio’s next governor prioritizes programs aimed at young children. Groundwork Ohio, headed by former State Senator Shannon Jones is doing just that.
Jones was part of the Impact Ohio Cincinnati Regional Conference in 2017 where she shared her passion for prioritizing Ohio’s youngest. Today, she is helping lead a campaign called Vote for Ohio Kids, which seeks to gain commitments from Ohio’s gubernatorial candidates to support early-childhood programs. Groundwork is partnered with Ohio Children’s Hospital Association in the effort and has already met with several candidates on the issue and plans to meet with all remaining candidates.
The push to expand early-childhood programs comes at a time when changes in the economy have made education more important than ever in attaining stable employment. Groundwork believes that to ensure Ohio’s children are best positioned to compete in the future economy, investments must be made early.
According to Vote for Ohio Kids, Ohio currently provides funding to low-income families for childcare, but only about 49% of eligible children have access to childcare programs, and far fewer have access to high-quality childcare programs. Only about 20% of rated childcare programs in Ohio are considered high-quality, far below the state’s goal. Ohio also provides public dollars for children whose families live at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level to attend preschool. However, as with publicly funded childcare, Groundwork believes more children should have access to high-quality preschool.
In recent years, several Ohio cities and counties have expanded programs to improve early-childhood well-being. In 2016, The City of Dayton and Montgomery County created Preschool Promise, committing to expand preschool education with money from a municipal income-tax increase. Cincinnati Public Schools also announced Cincinnati Preschool Promise with plans to spend $15 million a year to expand access to pre-k within its borders. Cleveland’s initiative to improve pre-k access is called PRE4CLE. The Columbus area is also tackling another area of early-childhood development. Following the report of the Greater Columbus Infant Mortality Task Force, Celebrate One was formed to reduce the alarmingly high rate of infant mortality in the Franklin County area. The organization focuses on maternal health and safe environments for infants in their first year of life.
Groundwork hopes its advocacy results in increased accessibility and quality of early-childhood programs across Ohio for at-risk children. In this important election year, Groundwork and Vote for Ohio Kids will continue focusing on Ohio’s gubernatorial candidates.
“Ohio must elect a governor who understands that kids who receive quality early childhood education and healthcare do better in school, are more likely to attend higher education and are better prepared for the workforce,” Jones said.