Columbus, Ohio: Today nearly 300 business leaders, child advocates, and early education experts from across the state convened at the Laying the Groundwork: Early Childhood Awareness and Education Summit to elevate the need for increased state investments in quality early learning programs like evidence-based home visiting and quality child care and preschool. The event’s featured speakers included David Melin, Dayton Regional President of PNC; LeeAnne Cornyn, Director of the Governor’s Office of Children’s Initiatives; a legislative panel consisting of Senator Jay Hottinger, Senator Kenny Yuko, Representative Mark Romanchuk, and Representative Emilia Sykes; and a keynote address by Myra Jones-Taylor, Chief Policy Officer of ZERO TO THREE.
“Forty million babies are born in our country every year and we know that their potential is unlimited,” said keynote speaker Myra Jones-Taylor, Chief Policy Officer of ZERO TO THREE. “Babies are not born broken… we have broken systems. You are more likely to be poor if you are between the ages 0-3 than any other time in your life. Our policies must reflect this reality.”
In Ohio, we know that high concentrations of poverty and other factors like race and rural geography play a significant role in kids’ early learning and development. This is evidenced by the fact that the majority of Ohio children do not start school ready to learn. Only 40% of kids demonstrate kindergarten readiness upon entering school—so it is not a surprise that only 43% of Ohio’s workforce has a degree or credential that qualifies them for available jobs in the state.
“I talk to business leaders every day. You know their number one issue? The people. They can’t hire enough people to support growth, as individuals that are applying for the open positions simply don’t have the technical or the social-emotional skills that are necessary for the job,” said David Melin, Dayton Regional President of PNC. “We can no longer accept the canned response that there is no more money in the budget for things like quality early learning. We must adopt a long-term view and know we will reap the dividends of our thoughtful, patient investments decades from now.”
During lunch, Groundwork Ohio presented A Step Above awards to Senator Stephanie Kunze, Senator Vernon Sykes, and Representative Stephanie Howse for their outstanding commitment to advancing policies and investments that support Ohio’s youngest and most vulnerable children. The inaugural Star Advocate Award was presented to Misti Norman, Owner and Director of Heavenly Kids Center for Learning.
Following the program, summit attendees participated in meetings with more than 100 members of the Ohio General Assembly to advocate for increased investments in quality early learning to increase school readiness, improve the lifelong success of kids, and ensure long-term economic success for Ohio.
Groundwork Ohio is a committed, nonpartisan advocacy organization formed in 2004 that advances quality early learning and development as the most transformative strategy to improve school outcomes, increase the life-long success of Ohio’s children, and lay a strong foundation for economic prosperity in the state of Ohio. To learn more about Groundwork Ohio visit www.GroundworkOhio.org and follow us on Twitter @GroundworkOhio and Facebook, www.facebook.com/GroundworkOhio.
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