Earlier this year, Groundwork released our Early Childhood Spending and Access Fact Sheet--a resource that outlines Ohio's spending on early childhood programs and the barriers kids still face to accessing quality experiences. We know that new investments are required to create a successful future workforce, but they must be made strategically in alignment with incontrovertible brain science—in the first five years of life—to see outcomes change and return on investment increase. The period of time in a child's life when we invest matters. In spite of the discrepancies between national spending and achievement trends and what we know about brain science, human development, and economics, Ohio’s education budget follows the model of ineffective national spending patterns. Although the state has committed a great deal of its scarce resources to education spending, only a small portion of those funds are dedicated to early childhood.
Allocating only 6.3% of Ohio’s overall budget to early childhood spending is not adequate to provide our most at-risk kids with experiences that can lay the foundation for lifelong success. Of the 680,000 0-4 year olds in the state of Ohio, 34.5% (234,600) are living at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Not nearly enough of these kids have access to publicly funded child care, public preschool, and home visiting services.
Despite serving only 60% of the children living at or below 130% FPL, most Ohio kids who receive publicly funded early childhood services do not have access to a quality learning environment that prepares them for success. In 2005, Ohio established the Step Up to Quality Program (SUTQ) with the goal of increasing access to high-quality programs as part of Ohio's Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant. As part of the Grant, the state set statutory goals that mandated 100% of licensed child care providers be high-quality rated (3 to 5 stars) by 2025. We are still far from reaching the statutory benchmark we should have reached in June of 2017.
Only 29% of programs are rated at all, leaving the vast majority of children in unrated programs. There are also racial disparity concerns with access to quality publicly funded child care (PFCC) programs. Among the children receiving PFCC in FY 2017, 17%of of white PFCC children were in highly rated programs compared to only 11% of black children. Similarly, 70% of black PFCC children remain in unrated programs compared to 57% of white children.
It's no secret that high levels of stress during the early years of a child's development can have long-term negative impacts, but did you know toxic stress can change a child's DNA? The high levels of stress caused by significant adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) result in the release of cortisol, as well as inflammatory proteins, which can alter DNA packages and affect the long-term behavior of a cell. This can increase the risk of heart disease, lung disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, poor school performance, drug abuse and mental illness. Interested in learning more about the impact of adverse childhood experiences on Ohio's youngest learners? Check out Groundwork's ACEs fact sheet.