Early Childhood Experts Testify on the Vital Role of Quality Early Learning Programs in Ohio


Early Childhood Experts Testify on the Vital Role of Quality Early Learning Programs in Ohio

Early Childhood Professionals, Parents, and Community Leaders Are United in Their Support for Investing in Quality Early Learning Programs


COLUMBUS, OH – Today, the Ohio Legislative Study Committee on Ohio’s Publicly Funded Child Care and Step Up To Quality Program heard testimony from early childhood professionals, researchers, and community leaders on the importance of quality early learning programs to the success of Ohio’s children, families, and economy. The testimonies offered to the study committee demonstrate the vital role quality early learning programs play in preparing young children for school and lifelong success; providing parents the quality care they need to work; supporting early childhood education professionals and child care programs; and addressing Ohio’s workforce challenges, now and in the future.


Numerous early childhood professionals, researchers, and community leaders submitted testimony for Wednesday’s hearing. Read the testimony excerpts below to learn more about the strong statewide support for quality early learning programs:


Dr. Judy Romano, clinician in southeast Ohio and past president of the Ohio Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics

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  • "Pediatricians support quality early education and child care for ALL children – in all zip codes, all areas of the state and for all income levels of their families. We are aware of the barriers: financial, access, workforce, and geographic variabilities to name a few. But we are also aware of the investments that have been made and how much has been gained so will continue to work with our colleagues to only move forward."

  • "I live in Belmont County and have taken care of many families suffering from substance use disorders. The challenges these infants and young children face are overwhelming and a good example of how quality services including child care are needed for both the parents and the babies. When care is consistent, developmentally appropriate, and emotionally supportive while the environment is healthy and safe, there is a positive effect on children and their families."

  • "Safe, secure, and nurturing relationships prepare children for school and for life. A quality life requires a quality foundation.”

Katie Kelly, Executive Director of PRE4CLE Read full testimony

  • "Families are excited about receiving information about high-quality preschool and consistently choose high-quality options when they are available."

  • "The Cleveland community was able to greatly increase kindergarten readiness and K-3 outcomes by increasing access to preschool programs utilizing research-based approaches to early education, including a three- to-five-star rating in Step Up To Quality, lower teacher: child ratios and group sizes, and greater teacher and administrator education."

  • "The increased quality of these programs coupled with increased enrollment in high-quality preschool created significant kindergarten readiness outcomes for Cleveland’s children."

Robyn Lightcap, Executive Director of Preschool Promise in Montgomery County Read full testimony

  • "Now is the time to invest in the quality child care system in Ohio. Child care has been woefully underfunded for many years, but, in the face of COVID-19, the system is at a breaking point."

  • "When I and others tell you that child care is in crisis, we are advocating for children and families. But we’re also speaking up for, and on behalf of, businesses – they simply cannot find the workers they need to grow and even stay in business."

  • "It’s time that we stop propping up the child care system on [early educators’] backs. We have to step up and invest more in quality care – for Maurice, our amazing and dedicated early educators, and our businesses that can’t succeed without high quality child care for their employees."

Chara Fisher Jackson, Executive Director of Cincinnati Preschool Promise Read full testimony

  • "The benefits of a high-quality education makes a difference for children, especially those with fewer economic resources. Parents want their children to have access to the best education possible AND it is what Providers are ready to implement as demonstrated by their work and progress during the pandemic. Our fragile education systems need more financial support to build upon the current investments made to ensure children are ready to thrive."

  • "Investing in quality child care provides critical support for today’s workforce. Families with young children have to choose between spending a significant portion of their income on child care. For many, this choice makes it more critical that we invest in early childhood education so families do not have to settle for less than optimal choices. The loss to children and their families is incalculable if we do not address this need for ongoing funding."

Dr. Angel Rhodes, Vice President of Future Ready Columbus Read full testimony

  • “The state’s Step Up To Quality program has been a game changer for children living in poverty in Franklin County. Thanks to Step Up To Quality, children in Publicly Funded Child Care are starting to receive the same level of quality as children in private pay.”

  • “Before Step Up To Quality, child care in Ohio was a system of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ While there is still work to be done, the current Step Up To Quality serves a significant purpose in the lives of children. Losing Step Up To Quality would deal a devastating blow to our Franklin County efforts.”

Kimberly Tice, Executive Director of the Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children Read full testimony

  • "All families deserve the opportunity to be able to choose between high-quality settings in which their children are safe, healthy, and learning. Ultimately, we envision a first-rate early childhood system where families only have a choice between one high-quality program or another high-quality program that best meets their family’s needs. Ohio’s children and families deserve no less."

  • "We must flip our understanding of quality and put educators in the center. To care about the children and families in Ohio is to care about the professionals who support, care for, and educate them."

Sonia Minnes, Professor of Social Work at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), The Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, and the Research Director of the Schubert Center for Child Studies

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  • "What parents told us directly supports the evidence gleaned from many years of methodologically sound research: young children who are enriched with opportunities and varied experiences designed by skilled early childhood educators reap long-term benefits."

  • "The simple availability of child care as a resource is not enough to positively affect child development. The child care settings that have well-trained staff and expertise to implement curriculum in a way that supports and encourages parents, while also providing a safe and stimulating environment for children, are essential to the overall well-being of young children and their long-term development."

"The need to increase access to quality, affordable child care has never been more urgent," said Shannon Jones, President and CEO of Groundwork Ohio. "As the strong and compelling testimonies shared with the study committee illustrate, parents, early childhood professionals, and community leaders are united in their support for investing in quality early learning programs. Ohio must build upon the state’s quality early learning system so that every young child and their family has the opportunity to thrive."


ICYMI: On Wednesday, The Columbus Dispatch published an op-ed from Groundwork Ohio President & CEO Shannon Jones on the vital role quality, affordable child care plays in supporting working parents in Ohio, especially parents with children age 5 and younger.


RSVP: Shannon will be a featured panelist for The Dispatch’s upcoming Columbus Conversations virtual event on child care and Ohio’s workforce. Tune in to the discussion live on Tuesday, February 15 at 6:30pm ET. Learn more.


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Groundwork Ohio is a committed, nonpartisan public-policy research and advocacy organization formed in 2004 that champions high-quality early learning and healthy development strategies from the prenatal period to age five, that lay a strong foundation for Ohio kids, families, and communities. Learn more about Groundwork Ohio at groundworkohio.org and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.