David Melin: The Time to Invest in Quality Child Care Is Now

As regional president of PNC’s Dayton market, David Melin oversees all client, community and employee responsibilities, which includes Corporate & Institutional Banking, Commercial Banking and Wealth Management across a 12-county territory spanning the Miami Valley. He is also active in the community as a member of the board for Montgomery County Preschool Promise, Dayton Metro Library Foundation, CityWide Development Corporation, Dayton Business Committee, Dayton Children’s Hospital and Groundwork Ohio.


PNC’s support of expanding access to high-quality early education is longstanding and unwavering – dating back to 2004 with the launch of our signature philanthropic initiative, PNC Grow Up Great®, through which we have provided nearly $200 million in early education grants in the communities where we do business. A $500 million multi-year, bilingual initiative, Grow Up Great provides support to pre-K education centers with the ultimate goal of helping children from birth through age 5 become better prepared for success in school and life.


In Ohio, over the past five years PNC has invested $10 million in early education grants, and our employees have spent more than 91,000 hours volunteering in early childhood education settings.


The support is more critical than ever before as the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt child care and early education a significant blow, while also highlighting child care’s vital role in a healthy economy. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, almost two-thirds of child care centers are small businesses serving less than 75 children, and they are struggling to break even.


Furthermore, our preschoolers are losing important learning opportunities. Through a PNC Foundation-funded study, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) found that as of December 2020, preschool enrollment rates are down nearly a quarter across the nation, with in-person education down even more.


The study, led by early childhood education public policy expert Dr. Steve Barnett, also found that young children in poverty had less than one-third the amount of access to in-person education than their higher-income peers enjoyed. Yet we know that young children learn best from hands-on activities and face-to-face interactions, and the study shows that most parents found the demands of supporting remote preschool overwhelming.


Today’s preschoolers are our future workforce, and they are facing unprecedented academic challenges, with those already at a disadvantage falling even further behind.


We know that 90% of a child’s brain develops by age 5. That is when they are most receptive to learning. Once children reach kindergarten, the gaps in learning and development start to widen, especially if they haven’t received high-quality pre-K education. Attempting to level the playing field becomes more expensive and the results decline as children age.


That’s why PNC supports bolstering Ohio’s Publicly Funded Child Care program, which currently is available only to the poorest of low-income families — those whose earnings fall 130% below the Federal Poverty Level. That means in order to qualify, a parent of two children cannot earn more than $13.73 per hour — or an annual salary of $28,548.

Only Indiana and Alabama have more restrictive income eligibility standards. Ohio can and should do better than ranking 48th in the nation on this measure.


The new federal funding that is coming to Ohio for pandemic relief gives the state the opportunity to invest in its future. In his budget, Governor Mike DeWine is proposing increasing the eligibility threshold for subsidized child care to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level, or $30,304. That is a necessary step forward, but the increase is not enough to encourage struggling parents to stay in the workforce.


However, if we moved the eligibility threshold to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, 50,000 additional Ohio children would benefit, while a parent of two children could earn almost $43,400 per year.


Ohio also must continue its smart investment in Step Up to Quality, which rewards child care programs for hiring credentialed teachers, using evidence-based curriculum, helping families teach children at home, and more.


In Ohio’s most highly rated early education programs, young children are learning early literacy and math skills, teamwork, empathy, persistence and resiliency. In addition, children are receiving interventions that address developmental delays. This experience is precisely the kind of start every young child deserves – one that sets them up for lifelong success.

Ohio’s Publicly Funded Child Care program and Step Up to Quality are investments — investments in our children, our working families and Ohio’s future. We must adopt a long-term view, knowing we will reap the dividends of our investment for years to come.


The time to invest is now!

Groundwork Ohio's budget blog series features stories from child care professionals, families, business leaders, and community members on why there's an urgent need in their communities to expand access to quality child care. In the state biennial budget, Ohio legislators have the opportunity to increase eligibility for the state's publicly funded child care program from 130% of the Federal Poverty Level to 150% of the Federal Poverty Level. Read our child care budget fact sheet to learn more about why there is an urgent need to increase access to quality child care. Take action today by contacting your Senator urging their support for expanding eligibility by clicking here.