This week, Groundwork staff met with Ohio Development Services Agency Director Lydia Mihalik to discuss the importance of ensuring a complete count of Ohio’s youngest children during the upcoming 2020 census. The census plays a critical role in determining the allocation of billions of federal dollars that promote healthy growth and development during early childhood, including $795 million at stake in the Child Care Development Fund, Head Start and Early Head Start, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The magnitude of resources at stake is increased dramatically as we consider the long-term impact of census counts on state funding over the coming decade. Further, the census informs advocacy for state and local investments in evidence-based early childhood interventions as we seek to close gaps between federal resources and the needs of Ohio’s at-risk young children. Unfortunately, the undercounting of children under the age of five has been a pervasive issue in decennial censuses. An estimated 1 million young children were undercounted nationally as a result of the census conducted in 2010. In 2020, it is predicted that communities with large, young child populations are at high risk of being undercounted yet again. The Children’s Defense Fund of Ohio estimates that over 100,000 of Ohio’s young children are at risk of not being counted in the 2020 census. To make matters worse, children in low-income households, children of color and Appalachian children stand to be disproportionately undercounted while also having the most to lose as vital programs face census-related reductions in funding. Groundwork expressed our support for the Development Services Agency in identifying solutions and funding measures to ensure that no federal dollars available to meet the critical needs of our most at-risk young children are left on the table as a result of the upcoming 2020 census. Interested in learning more about efforts to ensure a complete census count in Ohio? Check out the Ohio Census Advocacy Coalition.
Akron Supports Teachers & Ready Students
At the beginning of this week, the GAR Foundation announced a new initiative in collaboration with the Early Childhood Resource Center, Summit Education Initiative, and Kent State University’s Center for Public Policy and Health. The new initiative, STARS: Supporting Teachers and Ready Students, will engage 23 local child care and preschool programs over two years, offering professional development and training on high-quality and engaged learning techniques, as well as guiding administrators as they strive to achieve star ratings in Ohio’s early education Quality Rating and Improvement System, Step Up to Quality (SUTQ). “High-quality learning starts with teachers,” said Kirstin Toth, senior vice president of GAR Foundation. “We know that helping young children get the right start is the most important investment we can make in the educational continuum. Sixty percent of children who show up at Akron Public Schools’ kindergartens are not ready to learn. If we want to see systemic progress in early learning, the system needs an infusion of quality professional development, resources, and support for those caring for and teaching our youngest learners.” Akron’s rate of children who enter kindergarten demonstrating readiness is consistent with the state's, but children of color in Summit County still fare far worse than their white peers. Only 20.7% of black children in the county are ready for kindergarten, compared to 54.2% of their white peers. Investing in quality early education opportunities is the proven intervention to prevent gaps in early learning and development from occurring and reduce long-term disparities in education and health outcomes. “Children who begin kindergarten on track for success are more than twice as likely to read on grade level during the first years of school,” added Laura DiCola, Summit Education Initiative’s Early Childhood Strategy Leader and member of Groundwork Ohio’s Advisory Committee. "The coalitions bring kindergarten and preschool educators together with community partners to develop targeted, data-informed strategies to improve school readiness in a specific neighborhood or community. Summit Education Initiative is eager to strengthen this work with deep engagement from the STARS centers." Learn more about the STARS Initiative.
Raising Awareness in the 133rd General Assembly
The Groundwork policy team is still hard at work raising awareness among legislators about the importance of investing in quality early learning programs during the upcoming FY 20-21 budget. This week, we met with Senators Craig, Hackett, and Hoagland as well as staff from the offices of Senators Hill, Rulli, and Williams! Learn more about how you can advocate for Ohio's youngest learners in the upcoming budget process.