Editorial: Senate's attempt to defang acclaimed child-care ratings should not stand (Cleveland.com)

By: Editorial Board, cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer Access article In late 2015, cleveland.com, The Plain Dealer, ideastream, and sponsor PNC Bank embarked on a year of reporting on the rich body of research that pointed to “The First 2,000 Days” in a child’s life as key to a healthy and high-earning future.


Without sufficient nutrition and stimulation, a stable home environment and quality early-childhood education, children tend to start school so far behind they never catch up. By contrast, engaged care, healthful exercise and first-rate preschool education set the stage for optimal brain development and future success, the series found.


One result of this series was a huge boost in interest and support for the state’s “Step Up to Quality” preschool ratings system, which awards quality stars to preschools. Participation in the five-star system, which debuted in 2012, became mandatory last year for any preschools wanting low-income child care payments from the state. (Three stars is considered a quality preschool; four to five stars, exceptional. One to two stars show the preschool is in the process of upgrading quality.)


The acclaimed ratings system has improved access to quality preschool for low-income parents -- which is why it’s head-scratching that Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman has successfully pushed through a Senate budget amendment to end the quality standards for publicly funded child care.


Huffman, of Lima in Allen County, argues the ratings program suppressed the number of child care slots, but his concerns are misguided. The Groundwork Ohio nonprofit -- which counts the Cleveland Foundation, Mount Sinai Health Care Foundation and Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland among its backers -- noted in a memo to the Senate that overall child care slots in Allen County remained steady from January 2017 to January 2021, despite the pandemic. Over that same time, the number of low-income children getting quality child care in Allen County rose by more than 3.5%.


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